Did you receive an unexpected invoice from a car valuation service? Instructions for consumers

In recent months, the European Consumer Centre Finland has received approximately 100 consumer contacts concerning the Autoasihinta.fi service. The Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority’s (FCCA) Consumer Advisory Services have also received complaints about the same service. The party behind the Finnish-language car valuation website is a Latvian company called Datatech SIA. According to the contacts, consumers had only become aware of the service being subject to a fee when they received an invoice of EUR 169 from the company. According to some contacts, the service had specifically been advertised as a free service. Furthermore, some consumers reported to have received an invoice even though they were confident they had not placed an order. The cases have not been resolved in the mediation by the European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net) because the company has so far not reacted to requests for response.

The autoasihinta.fi domain was registered in early September 2023. In the view of the European Consumer Centre, the car valuation service offered on the Autoasihinta.fi website is a standard service that is subject to a 14-day right of withdrawal. Under the Consumer Protection Act, the consumer is not liable to pay for a service provided in full or in part during the withdrawal period if the trader has neglected to provide the consumer the terms, deadlines, and procedures related to the exercise of the right of withdrawal.

It is stated on the Autoasihinta.fi website that the consumer does not have the right of withdrawal. As the company has not provided consumers with truthful information about the right of withdrawal, it is our view that the consumer is not liable to pay for the valuation made by the company. Therefore, invoices sent by the company can be considered unfounded.

It is worth noting that the company’s terms may change quickly, so subsequent cases might be assessed differently.

Instructions for consumers

  • If you have placed an order for a valuation without having been informed of its fee or your right of withdrawal, or if you have not placed the disputed order yourself, submit a written complaint to the company after receiving the invoice. If needed, make a reference to the above section of the Consumer Protection Act in your complaint.
  • The company’s website has a contact form that you can use to file the complaint. Take and save a screenshot of your message before submitting it.
  • As this is a foreign company, the complaint should be written in English. You can use free online translation engines. One complaint to the company is enough. Keep the valuation certificate, invoice(s), your complaint, and any reply the company may send you.
  • Contact the European Consumer Centre for advice only in the event that the company, despite your complaint, passes the invoice to a debt collection agency for recovery or brings the matter to court. However, it is unlikely that the company would initiate recovery or court proceedings. Please note that the collection cost added to the invoice by the company itself or the company’s threat to send the case to the collection agency does not mean that the case has passed to collection. You do not need to inform us of any payment reminders you may receive.

Mediation of complaints concerning the Autoasihinta.fi service not possible

The European Consumer Centre Latvia has tried to reach Datatech SIA. However, the mediation process has not proceeded, as the company has so far not reacted to requests for response. European Consumer Centres do not have coercive measures at their disposal, so we cannot force the company to respond to us.

The Finnish Consumer Ombudsman, who supervises compliance with the Consumer Protection Act and the lawfulness of marketing and contract terms, has also been informed about the consumer contacts concerning the Autoasihinta.fi service.

Other comparable services on the market

The phenomenon in question is not new; there are currently several foreign operators on the market who have offered and still offer Finnish consumers online car valuation services for a fee. The European Consumer Centre has also recently been contacted by consumers about the Autoluokitus.com service, as we announced at the beginning of the year. The FCCA also informed consumers about issues with car valuation services in 2022.

“It is a part of the phenomenon that when one service is closed down, another takes its place. We therefore urge consumers to be cautious: If you come across a service that is unfamiliar to you, think twice before entering your information. Always glance through the terms and conditions before placing an order,” says Senior Legal Adviser Oskari Stenius from the European Consumer Centre.

Our neighbours in Norway and Sweden have also faced this phenomenon.

UPDATE 8.2.2024: The instructions in this press release are also applicable to complaints concerning Autotiedot.fi and Autobase.fi.