The marketing regulations of the Consumer Protection Act are changing. The framework will remain essentially the same, but several sections of the law will become more detailed in the wake of a new EU directive. Customer service, for instance, will now be encompassed by the Act. The changes are accompanied by a government decree that lists inappropriate practices and aggressive marketing activities.
The scope of application of the Consumer Protection Act chapter that regulates marketing is being expanded. For example, from now on, the Act will cover customer relations and contracts. The impetus for the changes is a new EU directive concerning improper marketing practices, which is thus becoming part of Finnish law. Application of the Consumer Protection Act takes into account the social, linguistic and cultural differences among different Member States. All marketing regulations in Chapter 2 have also been reviewed, including statutes that will remain within the sphere of national regulation. The amendment is making its way through Parliament and will enter into force at the end of this summer.
Clearer outlines of what is appropriate
Consumers, and enterprises that follow the rules, may suffer from inappropriate marketing and aggressive business practices of other enterprises. In conjunction with the amended Act, a government decree has been issued with a specific list of inappropriate methods that are never permissible. The Consumer Protection Act now provides more prominent information about how to approach the evaluation of marketing from the standpoint of consumer groups that are particularly susceptible due to age, disability or a trusting nature.
Inappropriate methods that are never permissible are listed in concrete and detailed terms. For example, it violates the decree to describe a product as "free" if a consumer is required to purchase something else in order to get the product, or to disguise an advertisement as a bill. The decree also lists so‑called aggressive methods that are always considered inappropriate as well. These include directly encouraging children to buy something, or giving a consumer the impression that he or she has won something when there is no prize or it can only be obtained by purchasing something.
More specific criteria for good marketing practices
The regulations concerning good marketing practices are strictly national, but have been modified at the same time as the EU directive is being put into practice. In the course of the revisions, the distinction that has been made between good practices and inappropriate methods is that good practices concern ethically questionable marketing, whereas inappropriate marketing involves methods that improperly influence a consumer's financial decision making.
Marketing is considered in violation of good practice if it clearly conflicts with generally accepted social values. Since social values can change, there is an inclination to keep this section of the law flexible. To leave it less open to interpretation, however, the clause describes cases in which marketing is typically considered to be contrary to good practice. It also mentions minors as a special group for whom marketing is evaluated more strictly.
Product advertisements must include specific information
When individual products or services are advertised from now on, their main features, as well as the seller's or other marketer's name and address, must be stated in addition to the price. In addition, the procedures for payment, delivery, contract fulfilment or complaints must be described if these differ from usual practice, and there must also be a mention of whether the customer has the right to terminate or cancel the contract.
In effect, if a product is advertised, information about it must be supplied, although this obligation does not apply to "image marketing".
More enforcement power?
The statement issued by the Commerce Committee of Parliament is also in favour of making more effective methods and additional resources available for enforcement of the Act. In other countries, the means to intervene in marketing violations are often more effective than in Finland. In Great Britain, for example, a kitchen equipment supplier was recently sentenced to a prison term after repeatedly violating a marketing prohibition imposed by the local consumer authority.
Examples of cases covered by Chapter 2:
An honest Finnish cleaner
Value of tyre bonus was unclear
An advertisement camouflaged in gold
Theme: Good marketing practices (Current Issues in Consumer Law 1/2007)
Information for businesses about marketing and advertising