Market Court ruling: Elisa charges unreasonable fee for paper bill

At the request of the Consumer Ombudsman the Market Court ordered Elisa to stop imposing a condition in mobile telephone subscriptions, under which paper invoices incur a separate fee of EUR 1.90 or more. Contrary to what has been stated in public, the Market Court did not impose a complete ban on fees for paper invoices.

Elisa has charged its customers a fee of EUR 1.90 for a paper invoice for their mobile telephone subscription. There is no fee for electronic invoicing. However, in a brief sent to the Market Court, the Consumer Ombudsman has taken the view that a bill that is printed on paper and delivered to the customer by mail remains the basic form of invoicing for such a service, and that the consumer should not have to pay an additional fee for it. Not all owners of telephone subscriptions have an internet subscription or an online banking number, which means that they also have no possibility to accept the electronic invoices that are offered without having to pay an additional fee.

The Consumer Ombudsman felt that a precedent is needed on whether or not Elisa’s contractual condition can be seen to be unreasonable, and brought the matter before the Market Court for a ruling. In its ruling on 24 March 2014 the Market Court did not impose a prohibition on charging a separate fee for a paper invoice. However, it did forbid Elisa from charging consumers fees of EUR 1.90 or more for paper invoices for mobile telephone subscriptions.

In addition, the Market Court noted that a fee lower than EUR 1.90, for instance the previous charge of EUR 0.95, can also be unreasonable in individual cases, when considering the total impact of the contractual stipulation.

To add force to the ban, the court imposed a conditional fine of EUR 100,000.

The decision of the court is not yet legally binding; the parties have two months to apply for the right to appeal the matter to the Supreme Court. The final impact of the decision cannot be determined before that.