The EU Distance Selling Directive was transposed into Finnish national law by incorporating the relevant provisions into the Consumer Protection Act with effect from 2001. Because it is a so-called minimum directive, the provisions on distance selling can vary from one EU country to another. In Finland, the Consumer Protection Act’s distance selling provisions are contained in Chapter 6 of the Act.
The provisions of the Consumer Protection Act can not be circumvented by drafting one’s own contract terms, which weaken the consumer’s legal position. That is because the distance selling provisions of the Consumer Protection Act are mandatory legislation. Thus the basic rights that the Act gives consumers must be preserved in the various terms of contract and delivery applied by companies. (Chapter 6, Section 2)
Nor, obviously, can the basic rights conferred under the Act be circumvented by stating in the terms of contract that the Consumer Protection Act does not apply to a deal at all. If the vendor of a product is a company, the buyer a consumer and the product being sold a consumer article, the Act applies to the transaction in question. (Chapter 1, Section 1)
The right to withdraw from, i.e. cancel, a purchase does not apply in ordinary trade, although many retail chains do grant this right. In distance commerce, however, a decision to purchase is generally based only on pictures and text. The opportunity that a retail outlet provides to examine and try the product is not generally available in distance commerce. For that reason, a cornerstone of distance commerce has always been that the customer has the opportunity to withdraw from the purchase within a certain period of time and, subject to certain conditions, can also examine the product at home.
The Act gives consumers the right to try a distance sales product at home, because a decision to purchase is generally made only on the basis of pictures and text and the product can not be examined at that point. The general rule is that it must be possible to try and examine a product in the same way as in a shop. However, the consumer is not allowed to begin using the product.
A company can not require a consumer to pay the normal postage charges when a deal is cancelled or make the process of returning goods complicated through the company’s own procedures.