The Finnish Ministry of Justice is drafting a reform of the Non-Discrimination Act. In her statement to the Ministry, the Finnish Consumer Ombudsman said that the proposed extension in the scope of application of the Non-Discrimination Act promotes the implementation of consumers' basic rights and strengthens their position. The reform will make possible more extensive intervention in discrimination in private offer of goods and services.
A key improvement for consumers will be that all grounds for discrimination listed in Section 6 of the Constitution of Finland must be more carefully taken into account in business. Under the Constitution, no one shall be treated differently on the ground of sex, age, origin, language, religion, conviction, opinion, health, disability or other reason that concerns his or her person. Such other reasons under the Constitution include socioeconomic position, wealth, participation in voluntary organisations, family relationships, legitimate birth, sexual orientation and place of residence.
If reformed as proposed, the Non-Discrimination Act would reinforce the support for interpreting legislation that the Non-Discrimination Act and the preliminary work for it currently already lend to the Consumer Ombudsman’s activities to promote equality through the Consumer Protection Act.
The role of the Consumer Ombudsman in implementing equality
The proposed reform takes into account the fact that the provision according to which no conduct that is inappropriate shall be allowed in marketing in the Consumer Protection Act is linked to the prohibition on discrimination. The prohibition on unreasonable contract terms also has links to the prohibition on discrimination through its interpretations.
According to established general practice, an illegal contract term is unreasonable for consumers. The Finnish Consumer Ombudsman has in her work thus also looked at discrimination from the perspective of contract terms regulation so that, for example, standard conditions used by companies that place a certain group of consumers in a less favourable position than others based on some grounds for discrimination, including age or conviction, without justification are unreasonable.
In applying the Consumer Protection Act, the basic assumption of the Consumer Ombudsman has been that practices to be considered reasonable should be assessed with particularly stringent criteria in case of goods and services without which a consumer cannot survive in modern society. Such utility services include electricity and telephone subscriptions