According to the new Government Bill 89/2001, submitted to the Finnish Parliament in June 2001, the existing consumer protection legislation is to be amended and brought in line with EC Directive 1999/44/EC on certain aspects of the sale of consumer goods and associated guarantees.

If adopted by Parliament, the amendments to the Consumer Protection Act (38/1978, as amended) will come into force on January 1 2002. These amendments will have an important impact on online purchasing.

With regard to defects in consumer goods, the amended provisions would broaden the scope of the reversed burden of proof, which already exists under the consumer protection legislation. According to the government bill, products that turn out to be defective will be assumed to have been defective at the time of purchase. The vendor will avoid this assumption only by proving that the product was free from defects when it was sold to the buyer. At present, this rule only applies to products that are sold under guarantee.

However, the new provisions would only apply to products noticed to be defective within the first six months of purchase. Products that have an average durability of less than six months, or that become defective through customary wear and tear, would also fall outside the scope of application.

Under the existing legislation the buyer must notify the vendor of defects within a reasonable time of detecting them. It is proposed that this rule should be clarified in accordance with the directive so that a 'reasonable time' would in the future be at least two months.

In addition, the grounds for cancellation in relation to breaches of contract will most likely also be amended. Under the current legislation a consumer may only terminate the agreement with immediate effect when the vendor's breach is substantial. The government bill proposes that the buyer should always be able to terminate the agreement at any time with immediate effect if the vendor is in breach, except when the breach is minor.

The upcoming legislation includes provisions on information to be given to the buyer in connection with voluntary guarantees. According to the government bill, a consumer should be given information on the following:

  • the contents of the guarantee;

  • the fact that the consumer's legal rights are unaffected by the guarantee;

  • the guarantor;

  • the guarantee period;

  • territorial limitations; and

  • other relevant issues.

If the consumer so wishes the information can be given in writing or in electronic form.

For further information on this topic please contact Craig Thompson or Kati Määttä at Roschier Holmberg, Attorneys Ltd by telephone (+358 20 506 6000) or by fax (+358 20 506 6100) or by email ([email protected] or [email protected]).

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