At the request of the Ministry of Employment and the Economy, the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority (FCCA) has prepared a Consumer Policy Review.
A consumer policy benefits not only consumers but, more widely, the national economy as a whole. Safeguarding consumer rights will increase consumers’ confidence in the market and in this way also encourage competition and growth in domestic demand.
The Consumer Policy Review for 2015, drawn up by the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority (FCCA), describes key phenomena that have affected consumers in recent years. These include digitalisation, the increase in self-service and its associated risks, as well as scams. Consumer policy plays a role in all of these aspects. For example, the expectations placed on digitisation and the growth of e-commerce in particular will not be realised unless consumers have confidence in these innovations. One way of ensuring this confidence is to invest in consumer protection.
The review also contains proposals on what consumer policy should focus in the near future. In addition to digitalisation, important forces for change include the commercialisation and exposure of public services to market forces as well as the sharing economy and the circular economy.
Furthermore, there is a need to improve consumer competence, in other words the ability of consumers to operate in the market and the ability of businesses to act, for example, in customer service situations in the manner required by consumer legislation. Consumer advisory services should be developed into one-stop shop models, in line with the general goals for customer service in public administration.
Project proposals for the next government term
In the review, the FCCA highlights three issues that are important to address in the next term of government:
1. The monitoring of consumer legislation should be enhanced in order to ensure the functioning of the market.
Businesses that violate consumer legislation cause losses to consumers and obtain an unfair competitive advantage over other businesses. In a report submitted by the working group of the Ministry of Justice on 5 March 2015, a number of reforms to the powers of the consumer authority were proposed in order to enable violations of the law to be curtailed more rapidly in the future and the resources of the authorities to be used more efficiently.
2. The availability of financial and debt counselling will be ensured.
On account of the protracted poor economic situation, consumer debt problems may increase, and therefore the demand for financial and debt counselling services will grow.
3. The system of securities in the supervision of package travel companies will be revised, as the current system involves risks to consumers.
Currently, if a travel agency goes bankrupt, consumers who have lost their money do not always get their money back in full. Moreover, the payment of compensation can take between one and two years.
The Consumer Review for 2015 is part of monitoring in the Consumer Policy Programme for 2012-2015. The review may be utilised in preparing the next Consumer Policy Programme.