Many consumers have signed up online for price estimates for a car in the belief that the service is free of charge. However, users of the service have been receiving bills. The Consumer Ombudsman advises caution when using services that offer price estimates, as they frequently bring unpleasant surprises for consumers.
The Consumer Ombudsman, consumer advisors, and the European Consumer Centre have reported seeing advertisements in social media asking people to supply information such as their car registration numbers and e-mail addresses. Such advertisements have also been seen on gaming sites. The consumers have been under the impression that they had signed up for a free price estimate on their car, only to get a bill by e-mail. In several cases, the price estimate has been ordered by a child, whose parents are the ones seeking a clarification. In some cases, the consumers say they have never even visited the company’s website or placed an order.
This year the hintaapua.fi website has been a major source of the problems, leading to more than 100 approaches to consumer officials. The service is the work of an Estonian company Infostar OÜ. The company charges €150 for the service, which consumers have said was not mentioned, for example, in advertisements appearing in the summer months. The Consumer Ombudsman has noted that the price of the service is now mentioned on the company’s website (hintaapua.fi).
“Car evaluation services have caused problems and kept consumer officials busy in several countries for several years. New players are constantly emerging, and the problem has not yet been completely eradicated. Consumers should always carefully examine the website before entering personal or payment information, because charges are levied on most online services”, says Director Miina Ojajärvi.
Instructions fo1r consumers
If you have placed an order for car evaluation service without knowledge of the cost, if an order was placed on your behalf by someone else, such as an underage child, or if you have not submitted an order at all, send a written consumer complaint to the company. You do not have to pay the invoice, but a consumer complaint must be made. The complaint should be made by e-mail, for example, so that you will have proof that it has been sent.
When writing your complaint to the company you can use the following texts, choosing the option that best corresponds to your specific situation.
I have not ordered a car price evaluation from you as a paid service. There was no mention in your advertising or on your order form of any charges linked with the service. I demand that you immediately nullify the invoice that you sent me.
I have not ordered a car price evaluation service from you. I own the vehicle in question, but the order has been placed by someone else and consequently I am not bound by it. I demand that you immediately nullify the invoice that you sent me.
You may submit a complaint in the manner described above even if more than 14 days have elapsed from the arrival of the estimate or the invoice. One complaint to a company is enough.
Retain the price estimate, invoices, your complaint, and any answer that you get. Contact a consumer advisor immediately if the company continues to invoice you, submits the invoice to a collection agency, or if you receive a separate invoice from a collection agency.