Effective consumer protection promotes market efficiency. The constantly changing operating environment requires that public authorities and the business community increasingly work together. The Finnish Consumer Agency's new website continues this valuable tradition, which is aimed at making it easier for businesses to deal with day-to-day issues. We hope that our new pages will better serve the need to combine business goals with consumer protection. (English version is under construction)
There are many ways to work towards the common good. The Confederation of Finnish Industries is calling for better regulation, to avoid unnecessary meddling by authorities. In a project that started at the beginning of 2007, the organization is striving to improve interaction between business, authorities and the courts in order to clarify rules.
In addition to clear legislation the Confederation of Finnish Industries is demanding the efficient and speedy handling of disputes by authorities and courts. Businesses' goals in this respect go hand in hand with the need to improve consumer protection. As the organization notes, in order to achieve this goal, sufficient resources must be provided for authorities. Increasing efficiency does not mean simply revising legislation; authorities must also have effective means to intervene when firms step out of line.
Better regulation is also a key theme in the EU. In consumer policy the goal is to clarify rules without lowering the level of consumer protection. Several projects are under way to harmonize and develop consumer legislation in the EU. Projects in other sectors such as communications also have considerable impacts on consumers' legal position.
The Consumer Agency has proposed on several occasions that, as part of EU and Finnish action programmes in the area of better regulation, there is a need to create practices to evaluate the impacts of legislation on consumers and take these into consideration when legislation is prepared.
Developing consumer protection is about more than regulation. Businesses should also develop operating models that promote consumer protection and competitiveness at the same time.
A good example of how to take consumers' basic rights into consideration is Nordea's customer ombudsman model. The customer ombudsman welcomes feedback and on this basis the bank strives to improve the way it operates. The model can also provide managers ideas for developing operations. People have been grumbling about customer service for years, so new models are needed.
It is also easier for small firms to apply basic consumer rules in an online environment. A good example is Positiivarit Ky, which has clear and simple terms for online customers. In addition to paying with a bank or credit card, customers can also ask to be invoiced.
Editor-in-Chief, Director of the Consumer Law Division
Press release 13.8.2007: Companies need to improve their customer services - Queues and indifference eroding consumer protection