Starting from today, the Consumer Ombudsman will have a broader instrument repertoire available to intervene in consumer protection violations. In the future, the Consumer Ombudsman may, for example, apply for the imposition of a sanction fee. In addition, the Consumer Ombudsman may intervene in illegal content that violates consumer protection provisions published in a digital environment, for example by ordering them to be removed from a website or social media platform. Access to a specific website may also be prevented or restricted.
The Consumer Ombudsman is responsible for safeguarding the position of consumers and supervising compliance with the Consumer Protection Act. On 15 July, the Consumer Ombudsman will be given more robust means to intervene in breaches of consumer protection when the national provisions related to the Consumer Protection Cooperation (CPC) Regulation enter into force.
The CPC Regulation on cooperation between European consumer protection authorities entered into force in January and aims to cover sufficiently uniform consumer protection throughout the Union. The CPC Regulation expanded and sharpened the possibilities of the authorities of different Member States to provide mutual assistance in cross-border consumer protection breaches. The Finnish Consumer Ombudsman now also has access to new national supervisory methods.
“The new supervisory methods are welcome, as the Finnish Consumer Ombudsman’s selection of methods has been considered inadequate for a long time. The starting point for the Consumer Ombudsman’s activities is still negotiation with traders. Even though the control methods are expanding, matters will continue to be handled primarily through negotiations,” says Director Outi Haunio-Rudanko.
A bunch of new sanctions introduced
So far, the Consumer Ombudsman has been able to order a prohibition or apply to the Market Court for a prohibition. These methods will remain available, but the prohibition issued by the Consumer Ombudsman will change. A key change to the previous one is that the prohibition will remain in force if the trader does not bring the matter before the Market Court. The prohibition has previously expired if the trader has opposed it.
Previously, the Finnish Consumer Ombudsman has not been able to impose any direct financial consequences for violating the Act. The new Regulation gives the Consumer Ombudsman the right to propose that a sanction fee be imposed on a company that violates or neglects certain provisions on consumer protection. The Consumer Ombudsman may apply to the Market Court for this when a company demonstrates clear negligence or commits repeated violations.
In addition, the Consumer Ombudsman may intervene in digital content that clearly violates consumer protection provisions, for example by ordering it to be removed from a website or social media platform. Access to a specific website may also be prevented or restricted. In the same way, the Consumer Ombudsman may order that warning texts are given to consumers on the website. The aim of the new control methods related to the web is to intervene in attempted scams. These measures will be implemented in situations where the collective interest of consumers could be seriously damaged.
More extensive cooperation between authorities in investigative powers
The new Regulation also extends the investigative powers related to the Consumer Ombudsman’s supervisory duties. In the future, the Consumer Ombudsman will have the right to receive more information about, for example, the cash flows of companies. In addition, the Consumer Ombudsman may carry out inspections on the premises of a trader. It is also possible for the Consumer Ombudsman to make test purchases in supervisory duties.
In the future, the right of the Finnish Consumer Ombudsman to obtain information will increase, and thus the cooperation between the authorities will intensify, as the new decree gives the Consumer Ombudsman the right to receive more than just public information from another authority. For example, the police can provide official assistance.