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Coronavirus crisis leads to spike in disputes over holidays, credit

The overall number of complaints to the Consumer Disputes Board was slightly down on 2019 due to the collapse of air travel.

Uimaranta Teneriffalla
Package holidays were the source of hundreds of complaints to the Consumer Disputes Board last year. Image: AOP

Finland’s Consumer Disputes Board received an increased number of complaints about package holidays, electricity contracts and consumer credit during the coronavirus crisis last year.

The board registered 440 complaints about package holidays, travel agencies and holiday accommodation last year, up from about 170 the previous year. Many complaints related to the cancellation of trips due to the coronavirus epidemic, which led to disputes over refunds, the Consumer Disputes Board chair Pauli Ståhlberg told Yle.

In the case of package holidays, disputes were often resolved in favour of the consumer, Ståhlberg added, but many of last year's cases remain unresolved.

The board resolves disputes in accordance with the Consumer Protection Act as well as the Housing Transactions Act. Its solutions are recommendations, but they are largely followed by the parties involved, Ståhlberg said.

Disputes over credit, electricity

Consumer credit was the subject of about 300 complaints last year, which is more than double the number from 2019. Ståhlberg attributes this rise to the fact that more people applied for consumer credit last year due to the economic effects of the coronavirus crisis.

"The amount of people applying for quick loans has increased, and people have also experienced more and more payment difficulties, which then led to disputes," he said, adding that the introduction of a temporary interest rate cap of up to 10 percent on certain consumer loans in July may have also had an impact on the number of disputes.

The board also received about 260 complaints related to contracts with electricity suppliers. According to Ståhlberg, almost 200 of the complaints concerned two companies, 365 Hankintaa ja Fi-Nergy Voimaa.

The main issue in the disputes was typically over whether or not a contract had been agreed during the course of a telesales call.

Last year, Finland’s Consumer Ombudsman announced it was planning to take Fi-Nergy to the Market Court due to continued complaints, while the office is also investigating the activities of 365 Hankintaa.

Overall, the Consumer Disputes Board received slightly fewer complaints last year compared to the previous 12 months. This drop was mostly due to the collapse in air travel, which caused much less complaints about flight delays or cancellations.

The largest number of complaints received by the board last year related to car sales, although this figure was slightly down on the number of complaints received in 2019.

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