The Consumer Ombudsman can assist consumers in resolving an individual dispute if its resolution carries a significant impact on the interpretation of the law or the general well-being of consumers. The Consumer Ombudsman can also initiate a class action referred to in the Act on Class Actions and bring a dispute to the Consumer Disputes Board, provided that the dispute is suitable to be processed as a collective complaint and falls within the competence of the board.
In 2017, the Consumer Ombudsman received 78 requests for assistance on an individual case, 8 requests for class action, and one collective complaint request.
The purpose of assistance in disputes, in class actions and collective complaints is to promote adherence to consumer protection obligations primarily placed on businesses while ensuring that the consumers’ rights are realised. In 2017, the emphasis of this activity continued to be in cases where a large number of consumers had become the target of debt collection by legal means or were threatened to become such a target, either without proper justification or in cases where the demands to the consumers were completely unreasonable or frankly illegal.
The Consumer Ombudsman assisted three consumers who had been summoned to respond to the debt claim of the Estonian law firm Storm Mets in a local Estonian court (Pärnu maakohus). The claims were based on the invoices of Autonarvio.com. Pärnu maakohus rejected the claims of Storm Mets as the consumer objected to court proceedings in Estonia.
The Consumer Ombudsman also assisted dozens of consumers in their disputes with the collection agency Alektum Oy. Alektum had purchased thousands of receivables from telesales company Westerfield AG, related to telesales of sample packs of socks, razor blades ,and vitamin products.
The Consumer Ombudsman also assisted a consumer in appealing to the Supreme Court in a case in which the Court of Appeal had rejected the consumer’s demand to make the credit costs of a payday loan more reasonable.