The definition of the Danish Consumer Ombudsman institution (DCO) and its field of responsibility is laid down in the Danish Marketing Practices Act.
The institution was founded in 1975. The Consumer Ombudsman is appointed for a period of six years by the minister responsible for business and consumer affairs. The institution is an independent authority, which means that the Ombudsman can prioritise the institution's work and activities according to resources and needs.
The DCO also supervises compliance with the Danish Act on Payment Services, the Act on Legal Counselling, the E-commerce Act, the Ban on Tobacco Advertising Act as well as a number of civil law provisions following from other consumer protection legislation.
The Marketing Practices Act
The concept of marketing covers a wide range of activities: marketing is when a business or trader advertises or launches marketing campaigns or provides information about a certain product to consumers. It is also an example of marketing when agreements or contracts are made. Finally, after-sales activities, e.g. collection of debts etc., are also considered part of marketing.
What constitutes fair marketing practices is subject to change over time and the development in society in general. However, the following principles laid down in the Danish Marketing Practices Act remain beyond dispute:
- Marketing activities must not be unreasonably intrusive, aggressive or offensive
- It is considered an offence to make use of misleading information in order to induce consumers to buy a product or service
- The Marketing Practices Act also applies to the form and contents of a guarantee, distribution of commercial messages and the contents of manuals
- Business and trade must act according to the principles of good marketing practices – in other words, unfair and unreasonable conduct of business is likely to conflict with the act.
The DCO at work
The DCO investigates specific complaints as well as cases of a wider public importance concerning marketing activities and payment instruments. He does not, however, settle individual disputes between consumers and traders as such, but he can negotiate settlements on behalf of consumers.
The DCO also issues guidelines and guidance papers concerning specific or more general marketing issues on a regular basis, and traders can obtain an advance indication concerning the legality of contemplated marketing activities.
The DCO is authorised by law to bring civil and criminal actions on behalf of complainants, but he may also request the police to initiate investigation and prosecution to bring a charge against a trader. Further, the DCO has the authority to issue an interim injunction in situations where it is crucial to sustain a case against a trader as awaiting a court order would otherwise make the whole purpose of bringing an action for injunction fail.
Finally, the DCO has access to bring collective redress actions on behalf of groups of consumers.
The institution was founded in 1975. The secretariat consists of approximately 25 people - most of them with a background in law. The DCO is situated in the Danish Competition and Consumer Authority, who also puts staff and other resources at the secretariat’s disposal.