Consumer Ombudsman takes a promotional game campaign to the Market Court

It is the view of the Finnish Consumer Ombudsman that SCA Tissue Finland, which manufactures the Lotus brand of kitchen towels, paper handkerchiefs and toilet paper, has used aggressive methods in its marketing campaign.

In the summer of 2012 SCA Tissue Finland arranged a promotional game to promote sales of its kitchen paper, among other things. Participation in the promoitional game was possible with a sales receipt indicating the purchase of at least one campaign product bought at a campaign retail outlet. The main prize in the promotional game was 100 000 euros, and the likelihood of winning it was one in 2.4 billion. Consumers were not informed of the odds of winning.

The value of the main prize was exceptionally high in comparison with the articles commonly used as prizes in sales promotional games. In addition, the likelihood of getting the first prize was extremely low. For instance, in the Lotto organised by the Finnish lottery company Veikkaus, the odds of hitting the main jackpot are about one to 15 million.

In the view of the Consumer Ombudsman, the size of the prize and the poor odds for winning it led to a situation in which the promotional game inappropriately influenced the discretion and decision-making of the consumer. The marketing took advantage of the psychological impact of the possibility of winning, as a way of getting the consumer to make a decision based on emotion. At the same time, the consumer’s discernment and freedom of choice diminished considerably. This kind of marketing can be considered to be an aggressive practice.

Aggressive practices have been prohibited in Finland since 2008. The Finnish Market Court has not previously heard cases at the initiative of the Consumer Ombudsman involving promotional games involving aggressive practice. The Consumer Ombudsman feels that it is important to get a ruling from the Market Court on the matter.

The Consumer Ombudsman primarily wants the Market Court to order SCA Tissue Finland to desist in the future from giving an erroneous impression that the consumer can win the main prize in a promotional game even if winning is extremely unlikely. Secondarily, the Consumer Ombudsman wants the company to be prohibited from marketing which uses promotional games, related prizes, and enticements to participate in them in such a way that the consumer’s attention focuses on them instead of the actual product that is being offered.