The Unfair Commercial Practices Act protects consumers against misleading and aggressive sales tricks. Because everyone knows the decoys in advertising brochures, sprinkling of prices, incorrect health claims, intrusive telephone calls, endless subscriptions, sneaky invoices, unsolicited shipments and the smooth salesman. Buyers are being misled and deceived en masse. Yet there is hope. You don’t have to put up with anything anymore, because unfair trade practices are prohibited by law. Do you know the blacklist?
What is the Unfair Trade Practices Act
The Unfair Commercial Practices Act (OHP Act) came into effect in October 2008. This law is intended to protect consumers against unfair commercial practices such as those that occur in the promotion, sale and delivery of products and services. In addition, it better protects bona fide entrepreneurs against unfair competition from rogue companies. The rules apply in all economic sectors. So it concerns buying a carton of milk as well as a car or a complex financial product. The origins of the new rules lie in a European directive and apply in all countries of the European Union. No more different legislation, but a uniform set of legal rules that are included in the Dutch Civil Code .
The average consumer
The law only applies in the provider-consumer relationship and provides additional protection for vulnerable consumers who can be prey for dishonest entrepreneurs due to mental or physical limitations, gullibility and age. The starting point is always the average consumer. This is ‘reasonably informed, circumspect and observant’. A possible target group is taken into account. The law describes two main categories of unfair trade practices: misleading and aggressive trade practices. In practice, both can occur at the same time. A commercial practice is unfair if it conflicts with the requirements of professional diligence and it significantly disrupts or is likely to disrupt the economic behavior of the average consumer. This means that the ability to make an informed decision regarding a purchase is noticeably limited. In short: In retrospect, the consumer would have decided differently.
Customized sales tricks
Almost everyone falls victim to fraudulent practices at an unguarded moment , because there is a tailor-made sales trick for everyone. More than half a billion euros are spent on it every year by approximately two million Dutch people. Usually it is not mentioned, often out of shame – if only I had not been so stupid – or because people think that nothing will help. But you are not alone in your experiences. Whether you were fooled by pseudo-scientific talk, bought a new kitchen under pressure, gave in to a ‘free’ ringtone, unsuspectingly boarded the bus to a sales demonstration, or were talked into a so-called cheap subscription by telephone. Afterwards you will have regrets and your wallet will be a lot lighter. Yet you no longer have to accept anything uncritically. The unfair trade practices blacklist speaks volumes, and everything on the list has been declared prohibited by law. Below you will find the most important unacceptable practices.
Blacklist – Deceptive business practices
False, incomplete or omitted information
False or incomplete information about the most important characteristics, or the omission of essential information of the product to be purchased, is misleading. For example, mentioning a price that omits additional costs. Another form is also common: Unclear, incomprehensible or ambiguous information that can easily be misinterpreted, and is often intended to confuse you!
Congratulations! You have a prize in the lottery! Just transfer an amount and/or provide information. The result is usually that the sender has left without a trace.
Prize festivals without prizes
You will almost certainly win a prize in that organized competition if you buy or order something, and those prizes sound so attractive. But unfortunately, you usually get nothing at all or a measly prize that people even turn up their noses at at the fair.
Expensive phone numbers
If you want information about, for example, renting a room, working from home, modeling or a test drive, you may come across a telephone number that turns out to be very expensive. With the added bonus that you will be kept on the line for a very long time.
You know them, advertising brochures full of offers that do nothing other than lure you into the store. Once there, the offer appears to have run out due to great interest. Wrong kitty, chances are the offer was never available. A variant is the lure that – under certain conditions and/or for only a short time – will now be available, while that is not the case at all. For example, it is always for sale for that price.
The pyramid scheme
Want to sell products together with others? Discounts and making money all sound nice, but unfortunately the truth is less rosy. You must recruit new people yourself who will also participate. Income is very disappointing in this pyramid construction.
The holiday club full of deceit
Would you like to join a holiday club or shop at a holiday resort? You will receive many discounts, even free holidays. Just kidding. The range of holidays available is usually too small to take seriously. Your registration fee is gone.
Marketing material with invoice
Nice brochure, but slightly less nice invoice! If advertising material is provided with an invoice or similar document requesting payment, it will of course appear as if you have already ordered the advertised product. Because that is not the case, it is called deception.
The ongoing trial subscription
Looking forward to a trial subscription! Sometimes the impression is given that the subscription will automatically expire after a few months. But you won’t be the first whose subscription is tacitly renewed. You will have to react yourself to get rid of it.
It is misleading: Using editorial content in the media, paid for by the seller, to advertise a product without this being apparent from content or identifiable images or sounds (Advertorials).
Misleading health claim
Your product to purchase promises health, a slim figure or a more beautiful appearance. Diseases disappear and conditions go up in smoke. Unfortunately! There is a good chance that the product does not do what the text claims, and the seller knows that!
Of course you want that free product, but be careful: You often have to pay, for example for shipping and administration costs, or it concerns a subscription or membership that costs you money first. To make matters worse, you may also have to deal with forced purchases. The sun rises for nothing!
The last cards
You may not want to turn down that offer for the last tickets of a concert. Still, there is a very good chance that it is not about the last cards at all. In fact, the concert is far from sold out.
False quality marks and codes of conduct
Some do it: They wrongly mention that they comply with a code of conduct, whether recognized or not, or that they use a quality mark (trust, quality or similar label) with the aim of appearing more reliable and thus tempting you. Attention!
Lying about the manufacturer
Marketing a product that merely resembles a product made by a particular manufacturer in such a way that you think you are dealing with a product from that specific manufacturer is deception. This includes fake articles that pass as ‘original’.
“With us you have a seven-day reflection period!” It happens: Sellers who use the ordinary, legal rights of consumers to supposedly distinguish themselves from competitors. A cigar from your own box, but you don’t fall for it, do you?
The fake move
‘Everything has to go!’ ‘Closing out sale!’ ‘We are moving!’. Nothing wrong with that, but there is if it’s untrue. All too often, the deceiving salesperson stays where he is and just wanted to lure you into the store.
Blacklist – Aggressive business practices
Door-to-door sales and telephone sales
Someone is at your door or calls you and wants to sell you something. If you do not stop the conversation immediately, you may be confronted with persistent insistence or lying about the offer, with the intention of putting pressure on you to buy. Variants are sent by e-mail and are then called spam.
Have you received something without having ordered it? It is certain that the company pretends that you are obliged to pay or gives you a so-called ‘no obligation at sight’ period in which you are required to pay or return. And all this under the guise of a special ‘preferential right’. Yes, you have been chosen… However, you will be pleased with the reality: everything you receive unsolicited is your property!
The bus trip aggression
Do you know it? You thought your bus trip was fun until the bus stopped at a certain location for a so-called sales demonstration. It goes without saying that pushing and lying about the products to be sold can lead to unwanted purchases, especially upon closer inspection. So wrong.
Encouraging children to buy products through advertising or persuading their parents to buy the products for them is unacceptable and is therefore unlawful.
Refusal to leave your home
Has it gotten to the point where you have a seller in your home and he refuses to leave the property unless you buy? Or a salesperson who shows up on your doorstep again a day later? Once but never again! The aggressor is not within his rights, but you are.
You can only leave if you sign for that purchase now? Get out quickly is all you need to do, even if you leave the salesperson pouting with his pathetic, threatening or rude texts about how much time he has already invested in you. Putting pressure on potential buyers is prohibited!
Error and deception
Unfair trade practices form a gray area between fair trade practices and fraud, but often a blacklisted practice will at least involve error or deception . An error occurs if an incorrect representation of facts is given in a purchase agreement of such a nature that the agreement would otherwise not have been concluded. This makes the purchase agreement voidable. In the case of deception, someone is induced to commit a legal act by an intentionally incorrect statement, intentional concealment or forgery. Deception is therefore a deliberately induced error. Even then the agreement is not valid. Finally, fraud is persuading someone to hand over a valuable asset or to incur a debt, extorting money. Questionable business practices are most common in doorstep selling, telemarketing and other forms of distance selling .
Violation of the law
The Consumer Authority and the Financial Markets Authority have been designated as supervisors of the Unfair Commercial Practices Act. The latter is specifically for the financial sector, the former for all others. The Consumer Authority aims to promote fair trade between consumers and companies, which is why stakeholders’ knowledge of legislation is increased. Infringements on consumer rights are being tackled. It is examined whether the sales behavior conflicts with ‘good entrepreneurial behavior’. Sometimes a settlement follows if the trader is of good will. But if this is not the case and the law has been violated, sanctions will follow after a complaint has been filed, for example a financial fine or a penalty. If a violation also constitutes a criminal offense, the Consumer Authority will submit this to the Public Prosecution Service. “We must be careful more than ever what we let our hearts believe in.” ~ SolangeNicole