The Consumer Ombudsman took Elisa Oyj to Market Court in 2013 to establish a legal precedent on whether a separate fee may be charged for a paper invoice for mobile phone subscriptions. The Supreme Court has now ruled on the matter. On 16 August 2016, the Supreme Court rejected the Consumer Ombudsman’s claim for paper billing free of charge.
According to the Consumer Ombudsman, a paper invoice is a conventional invoicing method for mobile phone subscriptions and should not therefore be subject to an additional fee. The Consumer Ombudsman viewed Elisa’s contractual condition, based on which it can charge a separate fee for a paper invoice, as unreasonable. According to the Consumer Ombudsman,not all owners of telephone subscriptions have an internet subscription or online banking codes, which means they are unable to accept the electronic invoices offered without an additional fee. Moreover, not all consumers necessarily have the ability or the skills required to use electronic services.
The Market Court ordered Elisa to stop imposing a condition in its mobile telephone contracts for private consumers, according to which they must pay a separate charge of EUR 1.90 or more for paper billing. Both the Consumer Ombudsman and Elisa filed an appeal against the Market Court’s decision with the Supreme Court.
In its decision, the Supreme Court found that the condition imposed by Elisa concerning paper billing charges was not unreasonable. According to the Supreme Court, the provider of an essential service such as a mobile phone subscription service must offer an invoicing method that does not require the use of the Internet. However, such an invoicing method does not have to be free of charge. The Court found that the Communications Market Act permits a price difference between a paper invoice and an e-invoice. Furthermore, Elisa offers a range of invoicing methods, of which a paper invoice was the only one involving a fee. In its decision, the Court also noted that consumers were provided with an option to receive the information needed to pay their bills by text message and free of charge.
Supreme Court precedent (in Finnish) (KKO:2016:49)
Consumer Ombudsman given leave to appeal a ruling on paper billing charges (FCCA press release 3 November 2014)
Market Court ruling: Elisa charges unreasonable fee for paper bill (FCCA press release 26 March 2014)
Consumer Ombudsman took Elisa to Market Court for paper billing charges (in Finnish) (FCCA press release 18 June 2013)