As consumers, we have the right to expect that the products we purchase will cause no harm. When purchasing products online, ensuring product safety is more difficult than in the traditional brick and mortar stores. It is therefore important to carefully read the information available on both the product and the online store before placing an order. Also the price says something about the quality – it is hardly likely that you will get a decent product at the cost of postage.
Even if a product is sold online only, it must be accompanied by all information and instructions essential to safety in Finnish and Swedish. According to the relevant legislation, for example the following information must be provided on the product page in addition to the normal product information:
- information essential for the safe use
- age or size restrictions for certain products, such as toys
- restrictions related to operating conditions. Information on whether the product is intended for indoor or outdoor use.
Tips for buying products online:
Know who you're buying from
When you buy something in a traditional shop, you know where you can return it if there is a safety problem. But when you shop online, would you know who to contact? The more information you have on the manufacturer, the importer or the seller, the better. If contact information is visible, you know who to contact if a problem arises.
If the product is listed in the Rapid Alert System, don't buy it!
Did you know that the European Commission keeps a list of dangerous products found across Europe? This information is collected in the Rapid Alert System. Find out how the system works and check what products to avoid. You can also check the OECD portal on worldwide product recalls.
Buying a toy? Check for safety warnings and age recommendations
Online product information does not always provide clear safety warnings. Examine any product illustrations and photos closely for warnings and age recommendations. For example, toys unsuitable for children under 3 years of age should display a warning.
Read the user and safety instructions to make the best choices
Read any user and safety instructions provided online. Check how to use the product safely. For example, a child's bicycle seat should be labelled with the minimum age or size of the child for whom it is designed. If you are unsure whether a product is suitable for your intended use, ask the seller or the website administrators for more information.
Check the product and website reviews
Read online product reviews to see if other consumers have experienced any safety issues. Bear in mind that there may be some fake reviews among the genuine ones. Reviews of the website/online store itself may also be available, which will let you know if there are any problems with the online seller.
Found a safety issue? – Speak up!
If you encounter a safety issue with a product, report it to the seller and contact the relevant product safety authority. Consider also writing a product review to alert potential buyers. It will help other consumers make a safe choice!
European Commission's weekly reports the on dangerous products found
European Commission, Directorate-General for Health and Consumers
PROSAFE, professional organisation for market surveillance authorities and officers from throughout the EEA
National Institute for Health and Welfare, national programme for preventing accidents to children and young people
Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority
Finnish Medicines Agency Fimea
National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health (Valvira)
Ministry of Social Affairs and Health
Finnish Standards Association SFS