Read the following before you launch business operations as part of the food supply chain or expand existing business operations to distance sales. In this context, the food supply chain means all stages of the production, from field to table. On this page, distance selling is examined from the perspective of sales and marketing directed at consumers. There are more detailed provisions on the sales between professional actors, and you can find more information on them on sector-specific pages on the Finnish Food Authority’s website.
Picture: Tussitaikurit Oy
Guide to starting distance sales
Virtual marketplaces are supervised in the same manner as traditional retail outlets. Check at least the following before starting distance selling:
- Do you need to register your company?
- Do you need to submit notifications of the products you are planning to sell or apply for permits for them?
- Does your company need a plan for hazard analysis and critical control points?
- How is product traceability taken into account in the business operations?
- Also take into account the statutory requirements applying to the products you offer in distance selling.
There are many different types of distance selling and they are constantly changing. The entrepreneur is always responsible for ensuring that the products they market and sell meet all statutory requirements and this also applies to distance selling. This remains the case even if the provision, maintenance and updating of the distance sales channel (such as an online shop) has been outsourced to a third party or the products are sold on an electronic marketplace or platform.
Information given to the consumer about the company and its products and the contracts it concludes
Before receiving an order, the entrepreneur must provide the customer with specific information on the company selling the products and the products on sale. This is because in distance selling, the consumer cannot examine the product or its sales packaging in advance.
The sales channel used by the company (such as its website and the social media profile) must give at least the following information on the company:
- Name of the company (business operator)
- Address of the company’s head office
- Contact details of the company (phone number and email address)
Giving the company’s business ID in the sales channel is good customer service as it helps consumers to find out more about the company and its background.
At least the following information on the product must be given:
- Description of the products on sale. The statutory requirements concerning the content and clarity of the information and the languages used apply to distance selling products in the same manner as to products on sale in traditional retail outlets.
- Product price including tax.
At the least the following information must be given in connection with the distance sales agreement:
- How the consumer can pay the products.
- Delivery price not included in the product or service price, any other costs and expected delivery time.
- Invoicing practices.
- The terms and conditions concerning the payment, delivery and other aspects of fulfilling the agreement and, if necessary, the practices concerning customer complaints. The address of the company’s office must also be given if it differs from the address of the head office.
- How the order can be cancelled and when the customer’s right to cancel the order expires.
- In telemarketing: price of the call if it is not the same as the local network charge.
- If the consumer is responsible for the cost of returning the products when cancelling the order, this must be stated in the terms and conditions.
All information referred to above must be given in an easy-to-understand form and it must be available in writing and by email so that the customer can retain the information for later use. Read more about the requirements and legislation on the website of the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority (Guidance on consumer law issues for companies).
Marketing and the language used
Language of the target country is essential in the targeting of the sales and marketing. Finnish legislation also applies to the products and goods offered by foreign companies if the marketing can be considered to target Finland. Distance selling is considered to be primarily directed at Finland on the basis of the company’s marketing material.
Distance selling is considered to be directed at Finland if, for example,
- a foreign company mails Finnish-language marketing material to Finnish consumers
- the company maintains a Finnish-language website from which products can be ordered
Distance selling is not considered to be directed at Finland if, for example,
- there are only English-language discount coupons between foreign magazines/newspapers
As a rule, Finnish legislation applies if the product is in the possession of a company or its representative in Finland (in a warehouse or other similar place) before it is delivered to a Finnish consumer.
Please note Laws applying to different sectors may contain additional requirements or restrictions on what product information can or must be presented online.
More information to companies about distance selling on the Finnish Food Authority’s website:
More information to companies about distance selling on the websites of other authorities: