2 October 2014
Consumers in different countries have complained about online car valuation online services that ask for cars’ registration numbers and consumer’s email addresses and get them into subscribing to services. Valuation services from companies trading as autoscandic, autofaxi, autonorden.net and bilenspris, for example, cost between EUR 69 and EUR 75.
All these companies are registered in Estonia, and their terms and conditions state that they operate a no-returns policy. However, consumers have a statutory right to cancel a contract if certain conditions are satisfied.
Some Finnish consumers have been surprised to find themselves subscribed to a car valuation service after just a few clicks and entering their car registration number and email address.
The terms and conditions of these companies, according to which the provision of the car valuation service offered begins immediately, are in violation of the Consumer rights directive provisions of 13 June 2014, which provides that consumers retain their statutory right of cancellation even if a service is delivered before the end of the cooling-off period.
However, situations in which a consumer expressly asks a service provider to begin delivering a service before the end of the cooling-off period are an exception. In these circumstances, the consumer waives his or her right of cancellation. The legislator has emphasised that a consumer’s right of cancellation cannot be taken away simply by stating, on a website or in contract terms, that the provision of a service begins immediately.
There are still a lot of loopholes relating to the marketing of car valuation services which consumer ombudsmen in all the Nordic countries are aware of but have not yet been able to eliminate. Cooperation with the Estonian consumer authorities continues.
The European Consumer Centre’s role is to act as a mediator in disputes relating to cross-border trade. To reach a decent compromise, both parties need to make at least some concessions. These car valuation companies have not shown any interest in resolving the matter out of court. The European Consumer Centre in Finland consequently tries to prevent problems by raising consumers’ awareness of their rights with respect to these kinds of services.
European Consumer Centre in Finland gives following instructions for consumers who have received an invoice from a car valuation service provider:
- If you subscribed to the service by accident or if you have changed you mind, notify the service provider of your desire to cancel as soon as possible. A cancellation letter sent by email suffices for this purpose. However, keep a copy of your email as well as the valuation.
- Your cancellation letter can be in Finnish if the service was advertised in Finnish on the website. The service provider cannot expect you to exercise your statutory right of cancellation in a language other than the one that you originally used in order to subscribe to the service. Businesses have a responsibility to ascertain the contents of any cancellation letters or complaints they receive.
- You do not need to react or respond to any reminders sent by the service provider after you have sent them your cancellation letter. You only need to notify the service provider once of your desire to cancel.
- The service provider has the right to refer your unpaid invoice to a debt collector or other such agent. If this happens, send a copy of your cancellation letter to the debt collection agent.
- If the service provider wishes to pursue their claim, they need to take you to court. The European Consumer Centre in Finland maintains that these kinds of claims cannot be successful in court, as consumers enjoy a statutory right of cancellation with regard to these kinds of services.
- We have received approximately 100 complaints concerning car valuation services in 2014, and as far as we know, not a single one of them has ended up in court.
- However, any claims filed by these companies could be processed automatically if you do not respond to the summons. If you do receive a summons, contact the Consumer Advisors or the European Consumer Centre immediately.
- Avoid doing business with online service providers who do not disclose their email address despite requesting yours.