16 August 2013
The European Consumer Centre in Finland wants to catch the attention of consumers regarding the activities of Shapefocus, a company offering weight-loss products. The company advertises weight-loss products in the Internet and Facebook offering trial products with a 4 euro postage fee. In reality, by ordering the trial package, consumers have unwillingly committed to receiving regular and expensive product packages, the subscription to which is difficult to get rid of.
The advertisements for these products are in Finnish, but the agreement terms can only be found in English and they cannot be understood without a good command of the language. The content of the terms is also confusing and difficult to understand. No customer service seems to be available in Finnish.
In the terms of agreement, Shapefocus promises a 14 days right of return for the products. However, in order for the customer to be able to use this right, the company requires that even the trial package ordered with the price of postage must be returned unopened.
Make a complaint via e-mail, do not call the chargeable service number
According to information that the European Consumer Centre (ECC) in Finland has received from consumers, Shapefocus only replies to consumers' e-mails by referring to technical issues and requesting consumers to call the company's 0600 service number, which is subject to a charge. Because the cost of this phone service is not mentioned anywhere, the European Consumer Centre in Finland does not recommend that consumers call this number. Instead, consumers are instructed to follow these procedures:
- Cancel your order with Shapefocus by e-mailing to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org . Do this even if the company recommends or requires that you call a service number or refers to technical issues.
- Include your address information and a possible order number in the message.
- Keep the sent e-mail as evidence of order cancellation.
- Keep track of your credit card invoices and bank statements.
- If groundless charges appear, we recommend that you contact either your bank or Nets (previously Luottokunta, Finland's credit card service), depending on payment method.
- Further information is available from the European Consumer Centre in Finland, if needed.
Problems also in other Nordic countries
The European Consumer Centre in Finland is monitoring the situation. Complaints have also been filed against the company in Norway and Sweden. The Nordic ECC’s have been co-operating to find out the company's country of origin, but this investigation is still on-going. In light of current information, the company has a return address in Denmark, but the company is not registered in any of the Nordic countries. Based on its website, the company would appear to be situated in the United States. The Finnish consumer authorities do not have single case co-operation with a company situated in the United States.
A general rule of thumb for situations like these is that if it seems too good to be true, you should not trust the promises made. Additionally, you should always check whether the company has contact information for customer services and a geographical address.
The on-call phone service of the European Consumer Centre in Finland, Mon–Fri 10–13, tel. 029 553 9500.