Market Court: Promotional campaign game did not use aggressive methods to influence consumers

The Market Court dismissed the Consumer Ombudsman’s request concerning a promotional campaign game organised by SCA Tissue Finland Oy.

In the summer of 2012, SCA Tissue Finland, which manufactures Lotus brand kitchen towels, paper handkerchiefs and toilet paper, organised a campaign game to promote the sales of its kitchen towels, etc. The main prize for the promotional game was 100,000 euros, and the likelihood of winning this prize was one in 2.4 billion. For instance, the odds of hitting the main jackpot in Lotto, organised by Finnish lottery company Veikkaus, are about one in 15 million. Consumers were not told how small the odds of winning the main prize were.

In the view of the Consumer Ombudsman, the way in which the main prize was presented, the size of the prize and the poor odds for winning led to a situation in which the promotional game inappropriately influenced the discretion and decision-making of the consumer. It was the view of the Consumer Ombudsman that this type of marketing can be viewed as aggressive.

Aggressive marketing practices have been prohibited in Finland since 2008, but the Market Court has not previously heard cases of these practices being used in promotional campaigns. The Consumer Ombudsman felt that it was important to set a precedent for this matter and requested that the Market Court prohibit SCA Tissue Finland Oy from giving the impression that consumers might win the game’s main prize though in reality it is extremely unlikely that they would. The Consumer Ombudsman also requested that the company be prohibited from using promotional campaign games in their marketing in such a way that the game instead of the actual product dominates the advertisement.

The Market Court found that the campaign did not influence consumers aggressively nor did the methods used go against generally accepted good business practices in a way that would have impaired the consumer’s ability to make a sound purchase decision.

SCA Tissue Finland Oy’s campaign had come to an end before the Market Court hearing, and the company had already promised not to organise similar campaigns. However, in its decision the Market Court stated that in the public interest and because of the precedent the case could set, the matter was still such that it needed to be heard in court.

The Consumer Ombudsman is considering whether to request the right to appeal to Finland’s Supreme Court. The deadline for submitting the appeal is on 1 April 2014.

The Market court gave its decision (decision 55/14) on 31 January 2014.