Many consumers have contacted the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority (FCCA) about Super Living Products Ltd, Health Group Finland Oü and Vitaelife Pharma Oü, which sell electric toothbrushes and vitamins by telephone. Consumers have believed that they have ordered a sample package of their products only, but inadvertently or due to too incomplete or misleading information have committed to long-term subscriptions.
Based on consumer reports, Health Group Finland markets at least toothbrushes under the brand names Sonic care and Sonic Pro. According to the Estonian Trade Register, this is the same company, Regimen, which previously marketed Vitaelife Pharma brand food supplements, in whose misleading telemarketing the Consumer Ombudsman had to intervene back in 2018. According to consumer reports, the company behind the misleading telemarketing of food supplements is Vitaelife Pharma, which can also be found in the Estonian Trade Register. The sales calls, however, are made in Finnish. The Consumer Ombudsman will investigate the matter and then consider further measures.
A year ago, the FCCA warned consumers about the misleading telemarketing of toothbrushes sold under the Dentle brand by the mail-order company and online store Super Living Products Ltd, which is based in Hong Kong. According to consumer reports, the misleading sales continue.
According to the reports, consumers have believed that they have ordered a sample package of products only. Later on, however, the invoice and order confirmation sent as attachments to the order have shown that the consumer has committed to a fixed-term contract according to which he or she will be sent replacement brush heads or additional vitamin packages at regular intervals at a separate price. The customers who have made a complaint have been informed by the company’s customer services that the contract cannot be terminated before the fixed-term contract expires.
“The telemarketing situation may come as a surprise to consumers, and it may be difficult for them to refuse the order. You should remember, though, that you are never under any obligation to buy, and you can always hang up the call,” says Chief Adviser Raija Marttala from the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority.
The contract must correspond with what was agreed on over the telephone
In the sales call, the seller must clearly and in an understandable manner state the contents of the order and how the contract can be terminated. Instead of focusing on the introductory package, the seller must emphasise to the consumer that the subscription is continuous. The information must be provided before the consumer agrees to the order, and not mention the continuous nature of the subscription only at the end of the call when recapping the subscription data. Furthermore, the confirmation cannot deviate from what the seller said on the phone or make up for any details he or she missed in the sales call.
In the event of dispute, the company must be able to prove that during the sales call the consumer unambiguously committed to a paid continuous subscription and that the contents of the contract correspond with what was agreed upon during the call. The consumer has the right to ask that the seller lets him or her hear the recording of the sales call.
Consumer must be informed about the 14-day right of withdrawal during the sales call
As a rule, the consumer has the right to cancel a contract concluded by telephone within 14 days of the receipt of the item or the first batch of items. The right of withdrawal also applies to products sealed for health or hygiene reasons, unless the consumer has opened the seal, which may be a protective wrap or film.
In the sales call, the seller must inform the consumer about his or her right of withdrawal and how it can be used. Otherwise, the right of withdrawal will be extended by a maximum of one year from its original length.
According to the provisions on distance selling, you also have the right to cancel the order for the sample package by notifying the seller of this. You can also return a sample package sealed for health or hygiene reasons if you have not opened the seal of the product (e.g. a protective wrap or film).
Instructions for consumers
- If you have received an invoice from the company that charges for a non-sample package or an introductory order, even though you think that you have only ordered a product sample from the company, send the company a written complaint stating that you dispute the payment request. For example, you can justify your complaint as follows: ”Following a sales call I ordered a product sample and paid for its shipping. I have not placed any other orders.” You can also use our online application Complaint Assistant to help you draw up a complaint. Keep the complaint that you submitted.
- If debt collection procedures are instituted, complain about the collection in writing to the collection company. When you dispute your obligation to pay and give proper reasons for your stance, the debt collection may not legally proceed before the matter is cleared up.
- If the complaints are not successful, you should contact the Consumer Advisory Services at +358 29 505 3050 ( Mon-Fri 09:00 -12:00).
- You may report misleading marketing to the Consumer Ombudsman.
For further information:
Telephone sales of electric toothbrushes result in unpleasant surprises for consumers (7.6.2019)
The Consumer Ombudsman intervened in the case of food supplements telemarketing (8.5.2019)
Misleading telephone sales of dietary supplements and natural products is a nuisance for the elderly (9.4.2020)
Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority (FCCA): Regulation on telemarketing needs to be tightened (16.6.2020)