Current Issues in Consumer Law 6/2009
Everyman's right not seen as implying a free service
A consumer was aghast at Helsinki City Transport HKL's advert for the city bus route branded ”Jouko”. The advert characterised Jouko as ”everyman's right”, which is a Finnish concept normally used in reference to the public right to free access to land, forests and waterways. The consumer felt that the use of this expression implied that the service was free of charge for all. The Consumer Agency deemed that the nature of the service, in that it involves a fee, was not left unclear.
Based on the report received from a consumer, the Consumer Agency evaluated the marketing campaign for HKL's city bus route. The advert features the text ”Jouko is an everyman's right” in large font, an image depicting Jouko and text in smaller yet easily discernible font stating that the service can be paid for by travel card and cash, just like other public transport in Helsinki. The phrase ”Jouko is an everyman's right” can be understood to mean either that using the Jouko service is free of charge, or that the Jouko service is targeted to all.
Even if information provided in marketing is, as such, correct, it may be construed as misleading if it conveys a misleading overall impression. The headline of an advert may be misleading even if its body contains accurate information.
Nevertheless, in evaluating the advert as a whole, the Agency felt that the message conveyed focused on the availability and ease of use of the Jouko service and the fact that everyone is welcome to use it regardless of age. The advert clearly expresses the fact that the service involves a fee. Furthermore, as it is commonly understood that public transportation services entail a fee, the Agency found that the phrase ”Jouko is an everyman's right” did not convey the impression that the service is free of charge. Based on these criteria, the advert was not deemed misleading in the sense referred to in the Consumer Protection Act. 4537/41/2009
Legislation applied in the case:
Consumer Protection Act, Chapter 2, Section 6