In distance selling the consumer cannot physically check the packaging. For consumers to be able to make choices based on information and select products that suit them, they have to receive nearly the same mandatory food information through distance selling as for foods that are sold through conventional sales channels.
Variable information, such as batch ID and date of minimum durability (best before) or the ‘use by’ date (last day of use), does not have to be supplied at the moment of purchase. At the moment of delivery all mandatory information has to be supplied, including the variable information.
The moment of delivery is the moment when the ordered product is sent to the customer or the customer picks up the product ordered via an online shop from a shop’s pick-up point. In practice, the information is given via the food information on the packaging of the foods to be delivered.
The information is mainly to be supplied in Finnish and Swedish
Mandatory food information on packed foods has to be supplied in a language which the consumers who live in the member states where the food is marketed will easily understand. According to the Language Act there are two national languages in Finland, Finnish and Swedish, both of which are of equal standing.
In distance selling, the mandatory food information on packed foods has to be provided in Finnish and Swedish mainly. If the salesperson can show that the foods sold by distance selling are sold and supplied only in a unilingual municipality, the mandatory information can be provided in the language of that unilingual municipality only.
The information is to be provided in the material supporting the distance selling or in another way
The information has to be provided at no extra cost before the purchase is made, that is before the consumer selects the product for the virtual shopping basket. The information has to be presented in the material supporting the distance selling or provided through other appropriate means.
The material supporting the distance selling is all material which is given on a product in conjunction with the distance selling. This is for example on an internet page, a mobile phone app, a product catalogue, brochure or letter in conjunction with the product. In phone sales the information can be given orally.
Mandatory food information can also be provided by way of other appropriate means, for example by e-mail or by mail via a brochure, letter or product catalogue on request.
The most important thing is that the information is easily accessible or that the consumers easily understand how and where they can access the information quickly. No additional costs are to be incurred to the customer for accessing the mandatory food information through other appropriate means.
Responsibility for the information provided
The food business operator is responsible for the provision of mandatory information in distance selling. For example, with online sales, the operator responsible for supplying the information is the operator that has registered the domain name for the online shop. This operator has to ensure that the mandatory food information is accessible to the consumers.
The operator under whose name the food is marketed is responsible for the accuracy of the food information, any other information on the packaging and for the marketing material. But food business operators who do not affect the food information are not permitted to supply food which they know or presume, on the basis of the information in their possession as professionals, to be non-compliant with the applicable food information law.
If for example the operator has found out that the origin of a food indicated to be Finnish is not so, the product cannot continue to be sold as Finnish, but the operator has to correct the information. In addition, if the online shop operator based on their expertise and while carrying out conscientious work notices that the supplier of the goods is presenting unapproved nutrition or health claims in the marketing material, the online shop must remove these claims from the material related to the online shop.
Information to be supplied for meals sold by restaurants via online shops or mobile applications
The sale of meals by restaurants is considered to be selling of non-prepacked foods in catering establishments. For example, pizzas which are prepared, packed and delivered based on the customer’s order is non-prepacked food.
The following information has to be supplied on non-prepacked foods sold by catering establishments:
- the name of the food,
- substances causing allergies or intolerances,
- country of origin or place of provenance according to the food regulation or pursuant to that regulation or any other legislation
It is recommended that mandatory information is supplied in at least the language/languages of the municipality where the meals and products are supplied.
As to non-prepacked foods sold via online shops or mobile apps the above mentioned mandatory information has to be supplied in the material related to the distance selling or by other appropriate means. In phone sales the information on non-prepacked foods can be given orally if the customer asks for it.
If a restaurant also sells prepacked foods (for example soft drinks), the mandatory information on these foods has to be supplied.
- Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the provision of food information to consumers, article 8 (responsibilities) and article 14 (distance selling).
- Language Act (423/2003), section 34
- Decree of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry on supplying food information to the consumers (834/2014)