The Finnish government has submitted a bill to Parliament aimed at tightening the national telemarketing law.
The proposal includes a provision requiring companies to provide their offers to customers in writing, which would effectively end the right of telemarketers to "Closed" offers by phone.
This written confirmation could be filled in, for example, by e-mail, but a text message would only be considered sufficient if it contains all the price information and conditions.
The government aims to bring the change into effect in early December, although telephone and media companies strongly oppose the proposed changes.
“Nothing wrong” in the field
"This sounds like an unnecessary restriction," Joonas Puurunenthe CEO of the telephone marketing company Prime Sales told Yle.
"The problems are mainly due to a few players that are no longer on the market. And now everyone else is suffering from" he added.
In 2020, more than 1,500 complaints were filed with the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority (KKV) about two electricity companies whose practices included sending unjustified invoices to former customers through collection agencies. The complaints received a lot of media attention and led the police to launch a preliminary investigation.
"There is nothing wrong with the industry or the way it operates, but if someone does not follow the rules of the game together, it will ruin any market," Puurunen said.
He added that he was disappointed with the focus of the proposed bill and the way it was prepared, and said he had lodged a complaint with the Chancellor of Justice.
Cancellation period provides “good protection”
Puurunen further argued that consumers already have sufficient protection – a two-week reflection period during which they can cancel their order.
"At this time, consumers will automatically receive an order confirmation in the form of a letter or email once the contract has been agreed over the phone. This is followed by a 14-day cancellation period during which the order can be canceled without cause. In other words, the consumer already has protection," he said.
Customers may also forget to confirm the contract in writing, he noted, meaning the product they ordered would not be delivered.
In Puurunen’s view, a better way to increase the industry’s transparency would be to keep records of sales calls for a limited time. This would allow the authorities to exercise control and would also be a deterrent to unscrupulous practices.
He added that the proposed changes to the law would be a "huge blow" The telephone marketing sector, which employs thousands of people in Finland, would not benefit consumers either.
"It would facilitate the work of the authorities, but would be very detrimental to industry and workers," Puurunen said.
The customer marketing association has estimated that such a "written confirmation" The measure would weaken the profitability of companies and lead to the loss of 2,000 to 3,500 telephone marketing jobs.
The media industry also objected
The media industry has also strongly opposed the proposed changes to the law and called on lawmakers to grant an exemption from the regulation to sellers of newspapers and magazines.
"Regulation of telephone sales is justified. There are a lot of side effects and problems, but those problems are everywhere except in the telephone marketing of newspapers," Vesa-Pekka KangaskorpiThe CEO of the Central Finnish media company said.
He added that newspapers and magazines have traditionally been sold by telephone, and telemarketing is the most common and popular way to subscribe.
"We have a lot of elderly customers all over Finland – and they don’t have a smartphone or email address to confirm orders," he said.
Kangaskorpi is also the chairman of the Finnish Media Association Finnmedia, which is an interest group for private companies in the media and printing industry. He argued that the proposed law reform would negatively affect newspaper subscription volumes as well as media pluralism and vitality.
Finnmedia and the Finnish Association of Journalists have called on the government to amend a bill that would allow newspaper and magazine telemarketers an exemption. "written confirmation" requirement.
The Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority, which strongly supports the bill, disagrees with this assessment.
Consumer Ombudsman: The problems are industry-wide
Consumer Ombudsman Katri Väänänen told Yle he was very pleased that the bill, which had been required for years, was closer to the law.
He added that the problems in the sector are not limited to individual energy companies, but the media sector is not without problems either.
"We do not just see this as a certain market failure. We have had to manage a wide range of industries and products," Väänänen said. "Typical problems are related to the fact that magazines are marketed by telephone during a fixed tender. The consumer thinks they will receive the magazine for a few months, but this is a continuous subscription whose terms and actual price remain unclear during the call."
He further points out that his office has handled complaints about the telephone sales of magazines, natural products, food supplements, electric toothbrushes and underwear. The current 14-day cancellation period does not provide adequate protection, as many consumers do not go through the order confirmation in detail.
"If during a sales call a certain picture is given of what is being bought and at what price, the consumer has an idea of what he is ordering. In that case, it may not be obvious that there may be a fairly different agreement," Väänänen stated.
Source: The Nordic Page