Changes to the marketing control act

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Changes to the marketing control act

15.06.2009

The new marketing control act implements EU’s Directive on Unfair commercial practices. From 1 June 2009, several changes to consumer law were introduced: revised rules regarding telemarketing and marketing directed towards children as well as a set of new sanctions are among the news.

After several years of work, the marketing control act is finally in place. The marketing control act is the Norwegian implementation of the EU’s Directive on Unfair Commercial Practices.

Here are the most significant changes:

Better reservation against telemarketing
More than 1,7 million Norwegian consumers opted out phone calls from telemarketers through  The Brønnøysund Register Center. Still, consumer experience unsolicited phone calls. The system for reservation has therefore been improved. It is now possible to register several phone numbers. From 1 June 2009, businesses operating in the market must update their lists every month, as opposed to the previous three-month intervals.

Written confirmation needed after telephone sales
The Consumer Ombudsman has received thousands of complaints from consumers who have been tricked into deals they have not wanted to go into. Thus, a new rule demanding a written confirmation for a deal to be effectuated has been introduced. The seller must send a letter, an e-mail or an SMS to the consumer, after which the consumer must actively confirm the deal. Agreements are only binding after the consumer has returned the written confirmation to the seller.

Free newspapers? No, thanks!
For several years, it has been possible to opt out of receiving uandressed marketing material. It is now possible to guard oneself against free editions of newspapers as well as advertisments. It is sufficient to clearly mark the post box and/or door with a “No, thanks! To unaddressed advertising material and free newspapers"-notice.

Special protection for children and minors
New provisions that regulates certain forms of marketing directed at children have been introduced. It is expressively prohibited to include direct exhortations to children to purchase advertised products or to persuade their parents or other adults to buy the advertised products for them. In the assessment of whether a commercial practice is in conflict with the marketing control act, special emphasis shall be given to whether the advertising is directed especially at children, and if children can see or hear the advertising.

Combined offers are allowed
Combined offers, meaning the bundling of extra “gifts" with the purchase of a product or a service, have previously been illegal. Now, this prohibition is lifted. It is, however, still not allowed to link participation in a lottery or a competition with a purchase. Combined offers are also subject to other provisions. Typically if all marketing is focusing on the extra gift, this may be misleading.

Improved sanctions
Following the previous Marketing Control Act, the Marketing Council and the Consumer Ombudsman could impose a suspended fine. This meant that the fine only had to be paid if the practice was repeated. Now, an infringement fine is introduced as an alternative sanction. The fine can be issued for past practices. However, this sanction can only be applied to those cases which are in violation to clearly stated, unfair practices, i.e. sending out “spam" to consumers through e-mails.

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