Number of complaints concerning telesales and door-to-door selling increased in 2017

In 2017, more than 73,000 contacts were registered at the joint database of the Consumer Advisory Service and Consumer Ombudsman. As in previous years, the most common complaints concerned vehicles, housing, renovation, electronics and household appliances. The total number of contacts is going down, but there was a clear increase in the contacts concerning telesales and door-to-door selling. They are both examples of sales channels, where consumers are caught suddenly and unprepared. In such a case, consumers may enter into a contract without having enough time to consider the matter.

Consumers contacted the national Consumer Advisory Service operating under local register offices for information about their rights and to seek advice for solving individual problem situations for a total of 68,600 times last year. The Consumer Ombudsman, who supervises terms of contract and marketing concerning larger numbers of consumers, was contacted for a total of 4,625 times. The total number of contacts amounted to 73,225. The contacts include the telephone calls and electronic contacts received by the Consumer Advisory Service as well as the written supervision tips and different enquiries received by the Consumer Ombudsman between 1 January and 31 December 2017.

The total number of contacts fell slightly from 2016, which also showed as a minor reduction in most product categories. This may be due to the increase in the use of the Complaint Assistant, launched in 2016, as well as the use of social media and the internet in general when searching information and personally filing complaints.

The most complained-about product group is vehicles

As in previous years, most of the consumer complaints concerned vehicles, which accounted for more than one fifth (23%) of all contacts. One tenth of all contacts (10%) concerned housing. The next most common product groups were renovation (9%) and electronics and household appliances (9%).

In relative terms, the number of contacts increased most in the leisure (+15%) product group. The leisure product group includes several different products and services, among which the contacts concerning the telesales of magazines stand out. Another bigger product group causing complaints among leisure-time services are fitness services, such as gym membership agreements.

Telesales and door-to-door selling under specific Consumer Ombudsman supervision

When examined by the sales channel and location, more than half (55%) of the contacts concerned in-store sales. The second most common sales channel was online shops, which accounted for 18% of the contacts. The third most common sales channel was telesales, accounting for 8% of all contacts. The top three is the same as in the previous years.

The number of contacts concerning door-to-door selling increased by 12% last year, and the number of contacts concerning telesales increased by 7% compared to the year before. Telesales and door-to-door selling are both sales channels, where the consumer does not make the decision to go shopping, but the salesperson catches the consumer by telephone or suddenly shows up at his or her doorstep.

Some door-to-door selling and telesales are also initiated by the consumer. For example, the consumer may invite a renovation salesperson to his or her home for an appraisal visit based on an advertisement, or call a magazine salesperson to order a specific magazine.

Consumers must be informed about their right of withdrawal or lack of it

Since in case of telesales and door-to-door selling consumers are seldom prepared for a sales situation in advance, they may make decisions they – after more careful consideration – regret later. Therefore, the Consumer Ombudsman points out that, according to law, in telesales and door-to-door selling consumers must be informed about the contents of their right of withdrawal or whether such right exists in case of the product or service in question. If such right does not exceptionally exist, the consumer must be informed about this as well.

In door-to-door selling in particular, the situation is rendered more problematic by the fact that if the sale concerns a product tailored to the customer’s needs, there is no legal right of withdrawal. This is of great importance, since in many cases door-to-door selling may concern quite valuable renovations. As regards door-to-door selling, the consumer’s position is weaker also in the sense that there is no similar system for prohibiting door-to-door selling in advance as there is for telesales.

The one thing that is common for door-to-door selling and telesales is that both are associated with problems concerning elderly consumers in particular. The Consumer Ombudsman will address this perspective in his blog article published today (in Finnish). However, on the market, telesales and door-to-door selling cannot be regarded as a problem characteristic of a specific consumer group only. What is problematic about them, is the nature of the sales method combined with insufficient or misleading information provided to consumers. This year, the Consumer Ombudsman will be supervising door-to-door selling in particular and he will address the problematic practices observed, if necessary.

In individual problem situations concerning door-to-door selling and telesales, consumers should contact the national Consumer Advisory Service.

The Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority (FCCA) supervises the Consumer Advisory Service operating under local register offices and maintains the consumer administration database, where all contacts received by the Consumer Advisory Service and the Consumer Ombudsman are registered. In his supervisory duties, the Consumer Ombudsman uses also information received through the Consumer Advisory Service. The Consumer Advisory Service is a national service, providing information on consumer rights and obligations and offering mediation assistance in disputes between individual consumers and businesses. As from the beginning of 2019, the Consumer Advisory Service will become part of the FCCA.

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