In recent years, the Finnish Consumer Agency has had to intervene frequently in the marketing of phone subscriptions and bundles. In cooperation with the Finnish Federation for Communications and Teleinformatics (FiCom) and telecom operators, the Consumer Agency has also put together a checklist to help with mobile phone subscription sales. The following are examples of cases in which marketing regulations were not followed.
Straightening out phone sales
A Saunalahti subscription was being offered to consumers through telemarketing. Consumers reporting to the Consumer Agency said they agreed over the phone to have an offer sent to them in the mail, but instead received an order confirmation and notification of their phone number being transferred. Saunalahti contacted the subscription distributor, which corrected its marketing.
Sonera also had problems with telemarketing of bundled subscriptions. A contract could not be cancelled within the two weeks that normally applies for distance selling. The Consumer Agency has looked into telemarketing problems with nearly all of the telecom operators.
Small print and highlighted prices per minute
Subscription packages for Elisa Oy were being advertised by Markantalo in the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat. The prices and limitations of the mobile phone and broadband services offered were printed in such a small font that it was difficult to make out the text. Later, Elisa subscriptions were also advertised in the Helsingin Sanomat by Gigantti. In this case, the stumbling block turned out to be excessive emphasis on the price per minute. The advertisement stated the cost of the phone package in a large font as a price per minute. The monthly charge, on the other hand, was inconspicuous. The price per minute advertised would result only if the consumer were to use the exact amount of minutes included in the package. Therefore, the main emphasis of the ad should be on essential price information, such as the monthly price, with per-minute prices presented only as examples of typical costs. Elisa Oyj corrected its marketing in these respects.
Sonera was also cautioned about an ad for a "long-term benefit" in which the main message was "talk for one euro all through Sunday". At the bottom of the ad, in very small print, was a notification about the fixed term of the contract. The ad should not have drawn attention away from the subscription and the cost of using it.
A prepaid subscription was sold without contract terms
Elisa Oyj Kolumbus prepaid, bundled subscriptions were available for purchase at R-Kioski convenience stores. A consumer who bought the subscription and an accompanying phone from an R-Kioski reported that no contract terms were supplied at the time of purchase. Thus the consumer only later became aware of the year-long SIM lock and the fixed duration of the contract. The company was urged to ensure that the customer receives all contract terms and that essential information is also supplied in the marketing.
The concept of prepaid-style bundled subscriptions sold anonymously in convenience stores raises other questions as well. From the consumer's point of view, for example, is a fading receipt on thermal paper or a copy of it possibly made by the customer an adequately reliable system for having the lock removed when the time comes? Is it possible to ensure that someone making a purchase at the store during rush hour, for example, will receive all the necessary information before entering into a significant and binding contract?
Small fee for change in calling plan turned out to be big
The Elisa Oyj website stated that "for a small fee", it would be possible to change calling plans during a contract term. There was no mention of the size of the fee or the basis for calculating it in the price information or elsewhere in the marketing about changing the plan. The fee was actually based on the phone model and type of change, and the amount of the fee could not be considered small. The consumer who submitted a report to the Consumer Agency had to cough up several tens of euros to switch to a calling plan with fewer minutes.