Government newsletter: Improved conditions for consumers
10 December 2013
Improved conditions for consumers
For many people, Christmas means spending more money on consumer goods than normal. But it is not always easy to know what your rights are as a consumer. The Government is working to ensure that consumers have good opportunities to benefit from what is on offer in various markets in the form of goods and services and to ensure good consumer protection - for purchases in Sweden and from companies in other countries.
Consumers are facing rapid change. This provides many opportunities, but at the same time a comprehensive study carried out by the Swedish Consumer Agency on behalf of the Government shows that consumers experience problems in several markets. Below is a presentation of the measures the Government is taking to improve the conditions for Swedish consumers.
A consumer information service
Consumers should be able to get answers simply and easily to questions concerning rights and obligations, but also seek help to make well-considered choices. This is why the Government is proposing a coordinated telephone and online consumer information service.
The Swedish Consumer Agency will have the task of handling the service in cooperation with other relevant agencies. The Consumer Agency is to strive to cooperate with the voluntary consumer services at local level, and with the consumer advice bureaus that exist for the financial, insurance, energy and telecommunications markets. An important part of this initiative will be information and guidance on sustainable consumption, including how to avoid dangerous chemicals.
The Government has presented a legislative proposal that will enable the Swedish Consumer Agency to charge instant loan companies and others a financial penalty if they do not carry out proper credit checks. The Government has appointed an inquiry and taken the initiative to organise a Nordic conference to get a coherent view of the causes and consequences of over-indebtedness and possible measures to combat this phenomenon. The Government has also appointed an inquiry tasked with proposing measures to increase the chances of people who are entitled to a debt reconstruction plan actually receiving one. These inquiries have presented their proposals.
Effective dispute resolution
It is important for consumers to be able to have disputes with business operators examined in a speedy and simple manner. In recent years, the number of matters dealt with by the National Board for Consumer Disputes has risen. New EU legislation has also introduced stricter requirements concerning such activities.
The Government has appointed an inquiry to propose measures that will ensure effective out-of-court dispute resolution. The remit also includes proposing measures to ensure that more business operators comply with the recommendations of the National Board for Consumer Disputes. In the Budget Bill (Expenditure area 18) the Government proposes additional resources for the National Board for Consumer Disputes.
Better consumer protection in telephone sales
Problems in connection with telephone sales of goods and services have become the focus of ever greater attention in recent years. A significant proportion of reports to the Swedish Consumer Agency now concern telephone sales.
The usual chain of events appears to be that a consumer receives a call from a telephone salesperson and subsequently receives a confirmation of sale by post or email. It is clear from the reports that in many cases the consumer does not consider that they agreed to an offer.
The Government is therefore appointing an inquiry to look into whether consumer protection in telephone sales needs to be strengthened. The inquiry will also assess whether small business owners need special protection.
Improved consumer protection in the financial advice sector
Financial advice has become increasingly common. A wide range of savings products are available, and new products are being developed at a rapid pace. Consumers often have trouble assessing products on the basis of risk, benefit and cost.
To improve the position of consumers when it comes to financial advice, the Government has appointed an inquiry to review the regulations, supervision and possibilities for consumers to seek dispute settlement. As far as possible, this work should be coordinated with the Inquiry into markets for financial instruments.
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