New and amended provisions to the Finnish Consumer Protection Act (38/1978, as amended) and related laws will enter into force in January 2023 through among others the national transposition of the EU Directive 2019/2161 on the better enforcement and modernisation of Union consumer protection rules (the Omnibus Directive). Furthermore, telemarketing and doorstep sales will be regulated more strictly following certain amendments deriving from the current government programme.
Earlier this year new and amended provisions on conformity of goods, defect in goods and related remedies as well as on the sale of digital content and digital services were introduced by the national transposition of the EU’s Sale of Goods Directive and the Digital Content Directive. (See legal update on key changes 7.1.2022 here)
We provide a short summary on the key changes under the new amendments below.
Stricter provisions on price reduction advertisements and on the use of product reviews
According to the new provision on price reduction, the lowest price at which a product has been marketed during the 30 days preceding a price reduction must henceforward be disclosed in the marketing. This amendment is aimed to hinder factitious increases of prices prior to special offer campaigns, seeking to make the offered discounts seem more favourable as opposed to the actual price reduction. The provision replaces the provision in the Consumer Protection Act according to which the price of a consumer good may not be marketed as reduced by more than the amount calculated from the actual price previously charged by the trader.
Following the amendments, consumers must also be informed whether product reviews submitted by consumers and published online are correct and are written by consumers who have used or bought the product. Companies must also disclose how the correctness of these reviews has been ensured.
Additionally, consumers shall be entitled to a price reduction and compensation for damages if, for example, the marketing has been aggressive or misleading and if this has affected the consumer’s purchase decision.
New provision on dual quality products
A new provision on so called “dual quality” products, in other words goods bearing the same brand and marketed as identical to goods in another EU member state, even though being of different quality, is introduced. It will henceforward be prohibited to market such goods as identical if they in fact have substantially different composition or characteristics, unless being justified for legitimate reasons such as the right to adopt products to meet national requirements and variation in availability or seasonality of raw materials. Traders will also be allowed to offer goods of the same brand in packages of different weight or volume in different member states.
Stricter rules for telemarketing and doorstep sales
Firstly, the introduced stricter rules for telemarketing and doorstep sales include a written confirmation procedure that is introduced for telemarketing sales. Henceforward entrepreneurs shall after a phone call provide the consumer with an offer in a durable form and the consumer shall in durable form provide its confirmation to such an offer in order for a valid agreement to be in place and to avoid the risk for an administrative fine. The requirement of a written confirmation will improve the consumer’s position and is aimed to reduce disruptive selling, which is often especially targeted at elderly consumers.
Secondly, the consumer’s right of withdrawal is also extended with regard to doorstep sales. Pursuant to the new provisions, a consumer shall have a right of withdrawal also for custom made goods if an agreement has been entered into during a home visit which has not been requested by the consumer. Previously, this right to withdrawal was only applicable on non-customised products.
New remedies for consumers and new penalty fees
The introduced amendments will further strengthen the consumer’s position by extending the scope of penalty fees for companies that intentionally or negligently breach key provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, as the scope will henceforward cover also the new provisions of the Act. Thus, the above provisions on price reduction advertisements and written confirmations will be subject to penalty fees in case of breach. Furthermore, following the amendments, such penalty fees can be used as a remedy if a trader continuously applies unfair terms when conducting business or if continuously breaching certain provisions of the Consumer Protection Act.
Additional amendments and practical implications
Notably certain provisions in the Consumer Protection Act are also applicable on agreements in which the consumer has undertaken to disclose his or her personal data to the company instead of paying a fee, and on the marketing of such agreements.
The amendments deriving from the Omnibus Directive enter into force on 1 January 2023. All companies practicing business that falls within the scope of the Finnish Consumer Protection Act must hence ensure that most of the new and amended provisions are met before January 2023.