Movement restrictions in Uusimaa: what do the restrictions mean for consumers?

In its press briefing held on 25 March 2020, the Government announced that it would propose restrictions on movement from Uusimaa to other parts of the country and vice versa in order to combat coronavirus. Currently, the restrictions have been set to begin on Friday 27 March and remain in force until 19 April. The consumer rights advisers of the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority will answer any consumer protection questions related to these movement restrictions.2

1. What kind of cross-border travel is allowed?

The Government has stated that crossing the Uusimaa border is permitted for work travel, carrying out one’s trade, performing the duties of a position of trust, or fulfilling statutory obligations. Crossing the border is also permitted if there is a pressing personal reason for doing so. Holiday trips or other leisure activities, for example, do not fall into this category.

Public transport is operating to the extent that it is necessary for commuting.

2. What do I do if I have a booked a flight or train trip and I cannot travel to my destination due to the restrictions?

A significant proportion of domestic flights are already cancelled, and it is assumed that the restrictions will result in further cancellations of flights. If the airline cancels your flight, you have the right to receive a refund of the fare you paid for the ticket or, if you wish, postpone the journey to a later time if seats are available. If the airline cancels the flight, you do not need to receive service vouchers, points or other similar compensation instead of a cash refund unless you specifically choose to do so. The same applies to train journeys.

If a flight or train journey to elsewhere in Finland leaves on schedule despite the current situation, but you cannot take the flight or train due to the movement restrictions, you should be able to either transfer your journey or receive compensation. VR and the different airlines have already expanded their options for transferring journeys and obtaining compensation. However, the consumer’s right to cancel a journey is not written into legislation; instead, the refunds are assessed in the light of the general terms and conditions and ticket terms and conditions for the company in question, the practices adopted in these exceptional circumstances, and assessments of what is reasonable. You are advised to review the options on the webpages of VR or your airline.

3. I have booked a rental cottage for a holiday planned for April. Can I cancel the booking, since I cannot leave Uusimaa?

If you cannot go to the rental cottage because of the movement restrictions, you should be able to either postpone the booking or receive compensation. At the moment, this is what many companies provide. However, the consumer’s right to cancel the accommodation booking is not written into legislation; instead, situations are assessed in the light of the general terms and conditions for the company in question, the practices adopted in these exceptional circumstances, and assessments of what is reasonable.

If you have booked a cottage from a private individual, you can agree among yourselves how to handle the matter, applying for example the principles above. Unfortunately, the Consumer Advisory Services cannot intervene in matters involving two private individuals.

4. I booked a skiing holiday. Can I cancel the holiday? If so, on what terms?

If you have booked a travel package – including both transport and accommodation, for example – you have the right to cancel the package you have booked without charge if it falls within the period when the movement restrictions are in force. You should contact the travel organiser about cancelling the travel package and obtaining your refund. Due to the exceptional situation and congested customer services, there may be some delays to refunds, so please be patient.

5. I have to do distance work from the other side of the regional border – what about my travel card?

In this current situation, VR has increased the flexibility of multi-tickets and season tickets for long-distance and commuter services. The validity period of multi-tickets are extended and the unused period of the season ticket is credited to your account.

Regional, urban and commuter tickets for bus and coach services are regional ticket products supported by municipalities. For these tickets, any unused right to travel is generally not redeemable, although conditions vary between operators. In this situation, however, compensation for the unused ticket would be justified. It is best to contact your service provider to discuss the matter. Compensation can also be applied for in retrospect.

If the refund options offered are not sufficient, you can apply for a refund afterwards based on movement restrictions imposed by the authorities. Whenever possible, online services should be used for interacting with the companies.

6. My home is in Uusimaa and I’m stuck elsewhere in Finland – can I return home?

You have the right to return to your home. If your flight to Helsinki is cancelled, you have the right to choose between a refund of the ticket price or rerouting of the flight. Rerouting can also be done using some other means of transport.

While you wait for your rerouted journey, the airline has a duty of care to provide for matters such as meals and accommodation. In the event of the cancellation of a long-distance train journey, you can also choose between rerouting and a refund of the ticket price.

In this situation, however, it must be taken into account that air, rail and bus traffic into Uusimaa will in practice decrease considerably.

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