Supervision by the authorities and consumer protection do not cover the online stores of far-off countries

An increasing number of Finns make purchases online. The ease, limitless selections and price attract consumers to shop online. The campaign ‘Information Brings Safety’, launched today, draws attention to issues that online shoppers should consider before placing an order online. The campaign reminds people that in the event of problems, Finnish supervisory authorities can only intervene in products purchased from Finnish online stores, and in regard to the marketing and contract terms of online stores, only those written in the Finnish language. A number of Finnish supervisory authorities are supporting this campaign, now initiated for the second time.

According to online commerce statistics, Finns purchased a total of EUR 3.6 billion worth of retail products and EUR 5.7 billion worth of services online. A large part of consumer goods are already purchased online. In the last five years, online commerce of retail products has increased by a third. As much as 44 per cent of all online retail purchases are made in foreign online stores.

Over recent years, around ten per cent of contacts made to consumer advice have related to online purchases. Consumers have run into problems, particularly when attempting to cancel a purchase or terminate an agreement. The ordered goods have not always been delivered, or the products have been defective. Agreements stemming from free product samples and other “ordering traps” are also common. The buyer may be surprised to hear that the Finnish consumer protection does not reach everywhere.

In addition to financial matters, the authorities hope that the consumers would also be vigilant in product safety matters. At worst, the online shop may be selling a product that has been withdrawn from the market somewhere around the world for having been a danger to life. Instead of the real product, the packaging may contain counterfeit products of various kinds. The product may look identical to a product from a bricks-and-mortar store, but it can be designed for other kinds of weather conditions or be intended for a different supply voltage. If the product does not meet the safety requirements and the store operates out of the reach of the authorities, in the event of an accident, the consumers bears the responsibility.

Tips and advice

The campaign slogan is “There is no Sheriff in this Town”. The slogan refers to the fact that, at worst, online commerce can be like the Wild West, where nobody supervises the product safety or safeguards consumer rights. The campaign gives consumers practical tips about online shopping and advice on how to recognise a responsible online store and a reliable product.

Basic information and tips on online shopping have been collated on the ‘Information Brings Safety’ website. The campaign will also be visible on Yle’s TV channels during the beginning of the week, and campaign videos and advertisement banners will appear on social media channels, for instance. A competition based on a web application challenges consumers to test their own online shopping know-how.

The bodies behind the campaign are the National Food Safety Authority Evira, the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority (FCCA), the Finnish Transport Safety Agency (Trafi), the Finnish Medicines Agency (FIMEA), the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority, Finland (STUK), Finnish Customs, and the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes). The Finnish Commerce Federation sponsors the campaign.