1. Information on new legislation
The Marketing Practices Act was amended. Following case-law from the European Court of Justice, a general prohibition on price competitions and on trading stamps was deemed incompatible with the EU Directive on Unfair Commercial Practices and was repealed. The provision on sales promotion was amended as a consequence of this repeal.
2. Success stories
A substantial number of businesses have been prosecuted for violations of the Marketing Practices Act, most predominantly the unsolicited distribution of commercial communication by means of email or text messages or the failure to comply with information requirements concerning the overall price of a product or service or the credit costs (in particular the annual percentage rate) when consumers are offered to purchase a product on credit.
The first case-law in relation to a new provision in the Marketing Practices Act on marketing targeted to children and young people has been established. Two travel agencies were fined respectively DKK 175,000 (approximately EUR 23,335) and DKK 55,000 (approximately EUR 7,335) for exhorting the drinking of alcohol in marketing directed at children and young people. In one of the two cases the sentence has been appealed against.
3. Case studies
The Consumer Ombudsman has taken part in a sweep carried out within the EU on the compliance of alternative loan providers outside financial institutions with information requirements on credit costs.
The results of random checks on 'was/now-prices' were examined. The random checks were carried out across the country over a period of seven weeks in the autumn of 2010 and covered a broad selection of goods. Although the overall findings were that the Consumer Ombudsman’s guidelines on price advertising are complied with, a few cases have been raised against individual traders.
4. Important news and events
The 'Do not-deliver' Registry (currently allowing consumers to request unaddressed mail not to be delivered and requiring unaddressed mail to be delivered in an appropriate manner) was amended to the effect to include traders into the scheme. The amendment will enter into force on 1 March 2012.
A guidance paper on environmental and ethical claims was issued.
Negotiations on new guidelines regarding sex discrimination in advertising progressed and were nearly finalised at the turn of the year. The new guidelines will replace existing guidelines from 1993.
A draft proposal for a common position statement of the Nordic Consumer Ombudsmen on marketing in social media (such as Facebook) was submitted for public consultation. The draft proposal has been prepared by a working group set up by the Nordic Consumer Ombudsmen.
In the aftermath of the financial crisis the Consumer Ombudsman was assigned new powers to look into specific cases in which financial institutions have marketed their products aggressively to consumers. Complaints by the hundreds have been lodged by affected consumers and are currently in various stages of examination, in some cases pending before the courts. Settlements were reached between the Consumer Ombudsman and four banks in 2011. A substantial amount of resources has been spent on this particular task since 2009 and the work continues in 2012.
5. Information and Intelligence Sharing
6. Does your agency enforce both consumer protection and competition laws, if not who does?
Competition laws are enforced by Danish Competition and Consumer Authority.
7. Does your agency have both civil and criminal authorities, if not who brings the criminal cases?
Criminal cases are brought in cooperation with the police and the Prosecution Service according to instructions issued by the Director of Public Services. The power to charge lies with the Prosecution Service but the Marketing Practices Act lays down that the prosecution of a charge will be assigned to the Consumer Ombudsman if he so requests.
The Consumer Ombudsman has participated in the following activities under ICPEN auspices in 2011:
- Annual conferences