The Consumer Ombudsman and FiCom negotiated the rules of the game for changes in pay channel

The Consumer Ombudsman and the Finnish Federation for Communications and Teleinformatics, FiCom have agreed on a contract term for situations in which pay TV packages are changed. If the content of TV channel packages do not remain as similar as possible and sufficiently versatile, the consumer has the right to cancel a fixed-term contract.

Changes in the content of channel packages that carry a fee often cause confusion among consumers. Consumer officials and service providers are contacted by people whose favourite sport, channel, or certain series is removed from the channel package. In such a situation many consumers want to cancel the fixed-term contract, whose content no longer fully corresponds to what they originally acquired.

However, providers of pay TV services cannot always influence changes or the the availability of a series or sports event, or channel while a fixed-term contract is in force. It is typical of pay-TV services that their content can change without causing any changes in terms of a contract. It is problematic from the consumer’s point of view that it is not possible to appeal to the fact that fixed-term contracts cannot be altered in such situations.

To solve the problem, the Consumer Ombudsman and FiCom have negotiated a contractual term under which the consumer has the option to cancel the contract if the change in the channel package is so great that the service provider can no longer offer services that are as similar as possible and sufficiently versatile, as had been the case before.  FiCom members DNA, Elisa and Sonera, which offer its pay TV services, already abide by the new contractual condition.

The Consumer Ombudsman emphasised in the negotiations that when the contract is made, the consumer must clearly know what kind of a contract and service he or she is committing to. For this reason, the contractual conditions on the service must define the characteristics of the service as closely as possible.

“It is very good that the consumer’s status in situations of change is more clearly defined and better secured. However, service providers and media companies must also pay attention to not creating wrong mental images among consumers in marketing and in sales situations. Consumers should not be enticed by offering a specific programme or channel, unless it is clearly stated that the product in question is not necessarily part of the contract throughout its duration”, says Consumer Ombudsman Päivi Hentunen.

“It is also in the interest of the operators that the customer should get exactly the programming content that he or she wants. However, if the selection of programming changes, the distribution of significant content can become impossible. In such a situation, the description of service now negotiated will clear the status of all parties”, says FiCom Managing Director Reijo Svento.

The point at which the change in the content of a channel package is so great that the consumer is entitled to cancel a fixed-term contract on its basis, depends ultimately on the details of each case. In problem situations the consumer can contact Consumer Advisory Services or bring the matter before the Consumer Disputes Board.