1. Information on new legislation
The Act on Certain Consumer Contracts was amended to the effect that a consumer may as a general rule, when 5 months have passed, terminate a contract for a running obligation with 1 month’s notice. The amendment entered into force on 1 January 2010.
A new Act on Payment Services was adopted implementing EU-directive 2007/64/EC on payment services in the internal market. The act entered into force on 1 November 2009 and the Act on Certain Payment Instruments was repealed at the same time. The Consumer Ombudsman supervises the compliance with information requirements and other consumer protection provisions.
A new Act on Services in the Internal Market was adopted implementing EU-directive 2006/123/EC on services in the internal market. Among other things, the act that entered into force on 28 December 2009 imposes a number of information requirements on providers of services. The Consumer Ombudsman has been appointed to supervise the compliance with these requirements.
In order to bail out banks and mortgage credit institutions affected by the financial crisis, a support scheme (“the credit package agreement”) was adopted in February 2009. As a part of this support scheme the supervision with the financial sector was strengthened, among other things by assigning new powers to the Consumer Ombudsman to look into specific cases in which financial businesses market their products aggressively to consumers.
2. Success stories
A substantial number of businesses have been prosecuted for criminal offences.
A considerable number of the cases have concerned failure to inform consumers of the right of withdrawal in connection with distance contracts and contracts concluded away from business premises.
The penalty for the unsolicited distribution of commercial communication by means of email or SMS text messages was fixed at a level of a minium fine of 10.000 Danish kroners (approximately 1344 euros) for the first 100 emails or text messages (i.e. for any number up to 100) adding 100 Danish kroners (approximately 13,5 euros) per email or text message when exceeding the number 100.
Four local newspapers, owned by a national newspaper, and the editor for the four local newspapers were fined for publishing covert advertising (i.e. advertisements “disguised” as editorial copy).
Avoiding class action, a settlement was reached between the Consumer Ombudsman and The Yellow Pages in a case concerning failure on the part of The Yellow Pages to substantiate that contracts had been entered into with consumers. As a result of the settlement unjustified charges on the consumers had to be refunded.
The “Do not-deliver” registry entered into force on 30 April 2009 allowing consumers to request unaddressed mail not to be delivered and requiring unaddressed mail to be delivered in an appropriate manner to those consumers who have not opted out. The registry is based on guidelines negotiated with interested parties and has replaced a scheme run by the postal service.
3. Case studies
The Consumer Ombudsman has taken part in sweeps carried out within the EU and ICPEN.
4. Important news and events
Following lengthy negotiations with interested parties new guidelines on price advertising were issued in December 2009 and will enter into force on 1 March 2010. When advertising with a reduced price, the product must, as a general rule, have been sold at the normal price stated for a period of at least six weeks immediately prior to the time of advertising (four weeks for everyday commodities and seasonal commodities).
The position statement of the Nordic Consumer Ombudsmen on e-commerce and marketing on the internet from 2002 was revised. The new version was published in January 2010 and will soon be available in English.
As a consequence of the new powers to supervise the financial sector (as mentioned above), additional staff was assigned to the Consumer Ombudsman.
5. Information and Intelligence Sharing
Furthermore, the Consumer Ombudsman has participated in the following activities under ICPEN auspices:
- Annual conference(s)
- Best Practices Workshop
- Internet Sweep
- Airlines Issues Working Group