Supreme Court forbids the fastening of advertisements on front doors and letterboxes

The fastening of advertisements on the front doors and letterboxes of private persons without permission from the said individuals is prohibited. In its ruling, the Finnish Supreme Court accounted for the fundamental rights related to the consumers’ domestic peace and protection of private property.

Under the marketing name Letterbox, LB Marketing and Holdings Oy distributed advertising by its customer companies by attaching advertisements similar to post-it notes onto consumers’ front doors and letterboxes. The notes advertised products such as mobile phone subscriptions and insurance plans. The company did not ask for the consumers’ permission for attaching the notes.

In reports to the Consumer Ombudsman, consumers experienced the methods used by Letterbox as intrusive. They perceived their own front door as a private area that could not be used as free advertising space. Many were also concerned that an advertising note on the door would act as a sign of an empty apartment to outsiders thus increasing the risk of burglaries.

The Consumer Ombudsman considered the marketing of Letterbox to be in conflict with the Consumer Protection Act and requested that the Market Court ban the company from attaching advertising notes to consumers’ front doors and letterboxes without their consent. The Market Court, however, did not find the company’s marketing practices to be unlawful and rejected the application by the Consumer Ombudsman in May 2011.

The Consumer Ombudsman appealed to the Supreme Court and suggested that protection of privacy, domestic peace and protection of private property need to be accounted for in the matter as fundamental rights. In its ruling, issued on 30 January 2013, the Finnish Supreme Court found that the method of distributing advertising used by Letterbox conflicted with the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution of Finland. For this reason, the practices employed by the company were deemed contrary to good practice in the manner referred to in the Consumer Protection Act.

The Supreme Court overturned the decision by the Market Court and banned Letterbox from using the direct marketing method in which advertising notes are attached to the front doors and letterboxes of consumer households without permission from the individuals in question. To enforce the ban, a notice of a conditional fine of €50,000 was issued.