The tasks of the FCCA include guidance and control of Regional State Administrative Agencies, consumer advisory at the local register offices, and debt advice.
Regional State Administrative Agencies
The FCCA prepared and coordinated the performance management of the competition and consumer administration at the Regional State Administrative Agencies. In 2017, the Regional State Administrative Agencies participated in the supervision of pricing in advertisements, consumer credit and package travel companies, as well as the supervision of public procurement. The FCCA provided training on the supervision projects for the Regional State Administrative Agencies’ personnel.
The tasks of the competition and consumer sector performed at the Regional State Administrative Agencies and supervised by the FCCA will be transferred to the FCCA as of the beginning of 2020. Induction to prepare personnel for the change was planned and arranged during the year.
Local register offices, consumer advisory services, and customer guidance at the consumer administration
Consumer Advisory Services consist of the FCCA’s online services and personal services provided by consumer advisors in local register offices. Advisory and dispute handling in cross-border cases is centralised in the European Consumer Centre, which operates within the FCCA.
The consumer rights advisers at local register offices provide consumers and companies with information on consumer rights and obligations and mediate individual disputes. In 2017, the advisers handled 70,315 cases, somewhat less than in the previous year
Cases of Consumer Advisory Services
|Advice provided, number of cases||65,490||62,280|
|Mediation, number of cases||8,310||8,035|
Of the mediation cases, approximately 44% were settled, no settlement could be reached in 10%, and the rest were concluded in other ways (e.g. the other party could not be contacted). The Consumer Advisory Service can be contacted by phone or electronically. Some 15% of the contacts are submitted electronically.
The aim is that 90% of callers can reach the service. The capacity of the telephone advisory service was better in 2017 than in the previous year. This was due to the reduction in the number of callers by almost ten per cent. In 2017, a total of 71,810 customers called the service (79,532 customers in the previous year). Of identified callers, 57,621 customers reached the service in 2017 (60,198 customers in the previous year). The availability of the service in Swedish improved as a result of the change in the on-call duty system, whereby most of the service was centralised in the Western Finland register office.
|Share of answered calls of attempted calls||2016||2017|
|Finnish telephone service, %||75,7||80,2|
|Swedish telephone service, %||76,8||82,4|
As in previous years, most of the consumer complaints concerned vehicles, which accounted for more than one fifth (23%) of all contacts. One tenth of all contacts (10%) concerned housing. The next most common product groups were renovation (9%) and electronics and household appliances (9%).
In relative terms, the number of contacts increased most in the leisure-time (+15%) product group. This includes several different products and services, among which the contacts concerning the telesales of magazines stand out. Another bigger leisure-time service that caused complaints was the fitness service, such as gym membership agreements.
During the year, the Ministry of Finance prepared and commissioned reports on the reorganisation of local register offices. It was decided that the Consumer Advisory Service will be transferred to the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority as of the beginning of 2019. This was a natural move, as, due to operative reasons, the Consumer Advisory Service has been developed as part of the consumer administration service entity, which the FCCA has been in charge of.
Financial and debt advice
Financial and debt advice services are still provided in 2017–2018 by means of separate funding that is based on the Act on Financial and Debt Counselling. The FCCA guides the Regional State Administrative Agencies that are responsible for arranging the service and ensuring its sufficient availability in the region. The service is mostly offered by municipalities that receive compensation from the state.
In 2017, there were a total of 52 debt counselling units. The compensation provided by the state, the budget allowance for 2017, covered approximately 47% of the costs incurred by financial and debt counselling. Some municipalities funded parts of the counselling themselves.
To ensure the expertise of financial and debt counselling services, the FCCA provided basic and supplementary training; a total of 638 personal training days in 2017.
In the spring of 2017, the decision was made to transfer financial and debt advice to the legal aid offices as of the beginning of 2019. The reform of the Act on Financial and Debt Counselling was approved by Parliament in November.
The FCCA considers the transfer to be expedient. The change will remove many of the problems and obstacles related to arranging the services which the FCCA has highlighted on several occasions. Centralising the service to a single responsible party will enable the dismantling of the multi-stage steering and financing system and the more efficient development of the system by, for example, creating a common online service and reservation system. The Ministry of Justice initiated a transfer project in the autumn to prepare the national operating model and a common information system.
|Key indicators of financial and debt counselling (units that provide counselling)||2014||2015||2016||2017|
|Service capacity: Average days in queue for new customers||35||26||24||40|
|Number of new customers||16 243||14 749||16 256|
|Number of meetings with a customer||27,600||27,900||24,900||24,519|
|Expenses of transfer economy: Compensation for arranging financial and debt counselling*, €||4,936,000||5,641,000||4,661,000||4,661,000|
*) Decree by the Ministry of Employment and the Economy on the grounds for compensation to be paid in 2015 for the producer of financial and debt counselling services 112/2015