The Finnish Consumer Agency has intervened in cases where a business has failed to indicate the price of a specified product and claimed that this was unnecessary because an ad was general image marketing. A recent ruling by the Supreme Court has clarified rules about when prices must be indicated.
A basic rule is that businesses must indicate the selling price in advertising, according to the Decree on the Indication of the Prices in Marketing Consumer Products and the Consumer Protection Act. The selling price must always be indicated when a retailer markets specified products.
Businesses cannot get around the obligation to indicate prices by referring to some other source of information, such as a website. The obligation to indicate prices does not depend on the medium: a price must always be given next to a picture or text that specifies a product. The Consumer Agency intervened, for example, when a daily paper placed advertising on buses that said "Order Hesari" (Hesari = Helsingin Sanomat) without supplying price information.
Recent court decisions have dealt with the distinction between general image marketing and advertising that specifies a product. In the Consumer Agency's opinion the company was guilty of the same kind of advertising that was banned in decisions that were issued by the Market Court (MC:120/06) and the Supreme Court (SC:2007:37). These decisions also concerned advertising for Helsingin Sanomat.
The Market Court backed up its decision with a €100,000 conditional fine. Since the company took measures to correct the problem, the Consumer Agency did not petition for the fine to be levied.
The Consumer Agency also objected to a campaign in which Yhtyneet Kuvalehdet, a magazine publisher, placed advertising on buses.
Advertising for Tom & Jerry cartoon magazine was easily identifiable on the basis of colourful pictures showing characters and the magazine. Consumers received the impression that advertising concerned a particular magazine, so the price of the magazine should have been indicated. Nor could the company get around the obligation to supply price information by removing a text that said "order the magazine".
An ad for Suomen Kuvalehti magazine showed the name of the magazine together with slogans pointing to the target group - "the magazine for thinking people" and "thoughts on the move". In the Consumer Agency's opinion, anyone seeing the ad would most likely get the impression that it concerned a particular magazine, namely Suomen Kuvalehti. Consequently price information should have been indicated in the ad.
The Consumer Agency said that Yhtyneet Kuvalehdet was not required to indicate prices in another campaign in which advertising on buses asked readers to send e-mails telling the magazine about commendable acts they had witnessed. Although ads gave the name of the magazine (in the form of the e-mail address www.seura.fi) they did not give the impression that the main purpose was to advertise the magazine but rather to collect information about "heroes" on the magazine's website.
Current Issues on Consumer Law 2/2007: Supreme Court ruling on the indication of prices ends debate on image marketing