Consumer Board raps lost-and-found centre over €73 phone call

A woman who phoned about a lost wallet was put on hold for 24 minutes – and billed 73 euros for the call.

Siun soten terveysasemille soitettaessa ensimmäisenä vastaa äänite. Kuvituskuva. Image: Petri Aaltonen / Yle

Finland's Consumer Disputes Board has recommended that private lost-and-found service Suomen Löytötavarapalvelu make changes to its phone services.

In October 2017, a woman from the southeast city of Lappeenranta was billed 73 euros after she called to track down a lost wallet and waited on hold for 24 minutes to speak to a service representative. The recording told her that the call would be answered quickly, that waiting in the queue was subject to a fee, and the prices could be found on the company's website.

After waiting almost a half hour, someone finally gave her an answer in 30 seconds: the wallet that she described had not been found. The woman was shocked when she realised the cost of the phone call.

When the company refused to lower the fee, she complained to the Consumer Disputes Board.

Phone call fee reduced to five euros

The Consumer Disputes Board determined that as Suomen Löytytavarapalvelu did not inform the woman of the price-per-minute for waiting, no price had been agreed on at the call's onset. For this reason, the board reasoned that the woman should only be expected to pay a reasonable amount.

It voted unanimously to lower Suomen Löytötavarapalvelu's 73-euro phone charge to five euros.

"If a service agreement is not made online, but via a phone call, the pricing information must be given over the phone," said the board's chair Pauli Ståhlberg.

The law limits the fee that the lost and found service can demand for storing lost items to 17 euros. The board said that this restriction should be kept in mind in determining the company's charges for the phone service.

Company says it has dropped waiting time fees

Suomen Löytötavarapalvelu CEO Petri Fonsén told Yle that this was a one-off case and that the woman had been reimbursed as recommended by the consumer board.

Fonsén added that customers will no longer be billed for waiting time on the service line and that the cost per minute for answered calls is now clearly stated when one calls the number.

The CEO also noted that inquiries can be made free of charge by visiting the company's office or by post.