The consumer authorities still receive a lot of complaints regarding websites such as autonarvio.com, autonhinta.net and autojenhinnat.net where customers can order an estimate of their car’s value. The marketing of the service and the websites have been created in such a way that the binding nature of the order as well as the price of the service have come as a surprise to many consumers. Groundless invoices do not need to be paid but they should be reacted to.
The Consumer Ombudsman urges consumers to be cautious with said websites. Consumers can receive an invoice from the company if they fill in their car’s registration number and contact information on the form available on the website. Similar problematic estimation services have been noted at least in Estonia and other Nordic countries.
The company maintaining the website operates abroad and has not reacted to contacts by the Consumer Ombudsman. Additionally, the Consumer Disputes Board has not been able to notify the company maintaining the websites of consumer complaints.
Unclear information, no possibility of cancelling
Consumers have not understood that they are committing themselves to a chargeable service agreement only by clicking the start button on the website, because information on the car needed to be filled in after this point. Some consumers have also said that the order is registered already after only filling in the registration number without clicking on the start button.
Many customers have not noticed the price of the service. The price of the service is stated on the website but is missing from the banners that direct to the website.
Information on the right to cancel has been stated so unclearly that it is difficult for the consumer to get a clear idea of the terms applied to the service. The fact that the 14 days right to cancel of most distance selling is not applied to this service only becomes clear from the linked terms of agreement. According to legislation, the right to cancel can only be omitted if the consumer has agreed to beginning the service before the end of the right to cancel.
Consumers who have not paid the invoice for the estimation have received payment reminders with debt collection expenses that exceed the maximum amount provided for in the Finnish Debt Collection Act.
The company’s customer service is also difficult to contact as it only operates via e-mail. The company’s postal address is marked to be in the United States.
If you receive a groundless invoice
- If you believe that the invoice you have received for the estimation service is groundless, you do not need to pay it. If you pay a groundless invoice, getting your money back can be difficult. However, if the company is able to justify the invoice, you might need to pay for debt collection expenses. The grounds for each invoice are inspected on a case by case basis.
- A demand for payment cannot usually be dismissed simply by not paying. Send a written complaint to the company stating why you believe the invoice to be groundless. Notifying the consumer protection authorities alone is not adequate.
- If you have received an invoice or a payment reminder, send a complaint to the sender, as well. If you receive a collection letter from a debt collection agency, send a complaint to the agency and give them reasons for why you are not obligated to pay for the estimation service. You can use the complaint forms available on the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority’s website in making your complaint.
- The case cannot proceed to enforcement or cause a payment default entry without a debt-collection ruling issued by a court of law.
- If necessary, you can ask for advice from the Consumer Advisory Services.
- At the moment, the Consumer Disputes Board is not able to process complaints filed against autonarvio.com, autonhinta.net and autojenhinnat.net, because the company cannot be notified of these complaints.
- If you suspect a scam, you can request an investigation from the police.
- In practice, even the authorities have difficulties in preventing the sending of groundless invoices.
Other instructions for online activities
- Do not give out your personal or contact information, such as your phone number or postal address, online unless you are sure of what the information is being used for.
- Check carefully what the service includes and what it costs. Price information may be written in small print or hidden in the terms of agreement along with information on the right to cancel.
- Check the company’s contact information to see whether the website gives a geographical address, an e-mail address and preferably also a phone number.
- Evaluate the trustworthiness of the site. Scam sites can be poorly constructed and contain spelling mistakes. However, sometimes they can look very convincing and well put together.
- More advice can be found on the scam section of the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority’s website.