Notifying the consumer of amendments to terms and conditions
If a company is entitled to amend a contract, it must inform the consumer of the amendments in advance, specifying:
- how the amendments will affect prices, charges or other terms and conditions.
- when the changes will come into effect.
- why the amendments have been made. Usually, any amendments that worsen conditions from the consumer’s point of view may only come into effect one month after the consumer is informed of the amendments. A shorter notice period is usually only possible if the amendments are caused by changes in legislation or decisions on the part of the authorities.
One-time contracts may only be amended for justifiable reasons mentioned in the contract
In the case of one-time contracts (for example in the case of purchases of certain products), the assumption is that the terms and conditions of the contract are final.
In the case of a cash agreement with simultaneous delivery and payment of the product or service, the company may not later amend the price or other terms in a way which is unfavourable to the consumer.
In the case of one-off orders, the company may not usually change the content of the order without prior negotiation with the consumer. For example, if the goods ordered have run out and are no longer being manufactured, the vendor may not unilaterally decide on a replacement product.
The company may only unilaterally amend a one-time contract for justifiable reasons specified in the contract, which may include:
- Changes in legislation or decisions on the part of the authorities that the company cannot be expected to have taken into account when making the contract.
- Changes in taxes, customs charges or other public fees which affect the price. If in the terms and conditions of contract the company reserves the right to raise a price in accordance with changes in taxation or other public fees, or fluctuations in exchange rates, the terms must also specify that the price may be reduced on similar grounds.
- Force majeure, i.e. circumstances specified in further detail in the contract, which are beyond the company’s control. These are circumstances that the company cannot be expected to have taken into account when making the contract, and whose consequences are unavoidable.
- A specific clause in the terms and conditions in which the company reserves the right to amend less consequential aspects of the contract for justifiable reasons.
The consumer is entitled to demand cancellation of the contract if a major change or amendment is made.
Fixed-term contracts may only be amended in exceptional cases
Fixed-term contracts apply to the continuing supply of goods or services during a specific period set in advance. In such cases, the terms of the contract may only be amended during the contract period in exceptional cases. General price inflation or changes in circumstances, for example, do not constitute sufficient grounds for amendment. The company may reserve the right in the terms and conditions to amend a fixed-term contract during its validity based on:
- changes in legislation or decisions on the part of the authorities that the company cannot be expected to have taken into account when making the contract (e.g. changes in taxes, customs charges or other public fees).
- breach of contract on the consumer’s part. An insurance provider, for example, may amend the terms of an indemnity insurance policy during its validity if at the time of making the contract the policyholder is found not to have disclosed all the relevant information.
The consumer is entitled to demand cancellation of the contract if a company should amend the terms of a fixed-term contract for any reason other than those mentioned above.
The Finnish Electricity Market Act and Communications Market Act contain special statutes concerning fixed-term contracts, which may lead to special clauses being included in contracts related to electricity supply and telecommunication connections.
Duration and termination of a subscription contract
Ongoing contracts may only be amended in the ways specified in the contract
Ongoing contracts may only be unilaterally amended by the company when:
- there are justifiable causes for the amendment, such as
- changes in the production, purchase or other costs related to the product or service to which the contract pertains.
- a significant change in circumstances, a change in legislation or a decision on the part of the authorities that the company cannot be expected to have taken into account when making the contract.
- the grounds for amendment are specified in the terms and conditions of contract.
- the content of the contract does not significantly change from the consumer’s point of view.
The consumer is entitled to terminate an ongoing contract due to amendments. If the consumer gives notice of termination based on amendments, then the amended prices or terms do not apply to the consumer during the notice period, because usually changes may only come into force one month after the consumer is notified of them. Amended prices may only come into effect during the notice period when they are caused by changes in legislation or decisions on the part of the authorities.