Latvian visit at Konsument Göteborg 2013-09-26
Consumer and citizen services
The City Council is the supreme decision-making body in the City of Gothenburg.
The City Council is made up of politicians who are elected by the citizens of the city. The City Council
decides which committees should be set up and chooses members to sit on those committees.
Our administration, Consumer and citizen services have a committee that are made up of politicians
appointed by the City Council. The committees have the same proportional allocation of mandates as
the City Council.
Coordinated service to citizens
Coordinate the development of e-services
Be responsible for the city's contact center
Conducting general consumer policy activities, and to promote support and coordinate consumer
activities in the municipality
Leave individual advice and support to consumers and in simpler cases help them to defend their
Be responsible for the municipality's obligations under the Debt Settlement Act
Conducting energy advice
In general fulfill the mission that the City Council has submitted to the Board
Vision and approach
The vision for the consumer and citizen service is a sustainable and socially Gothenburg based on the
ecological, economic and social dimensions.
The citizens of Gothenburg should have control over their daily lives. They should be given the
opportunity to receive information about and access to municipal services of various kinds, and
increase their knowledge, awareness, activity and engagement. They should be able to find their way
in and take part of the city's service and they should be aware of their right to select and deselect.
Consumer and citizen service will encourage a sustainable lifestyle and make it easier for citizens to
receive the municipal services they need.
The citizens of Gothenburg shall act fairly and smart for their wallets, climate and environment.
In consumer advice, anyone who lives in the municipality of Gothenburg get free and impartial
We sell our services to 5 nearby cities
Consumer support in four ways
Our individual counseling is free of charge. Consumers can choose to contact us by phone, email,
letters, social media and personal visits to our customer reception. The content and scope of the
advice is the same regardless of contact methods.
The service is to provide citizens with information, advice and support on issues relating to personal
consumption of goods and services. This includes situations when a consumer is about to make a
purchase, and is in need of advice, or when a problem has occurred and the consumer wants to
register a complaint and need advice on how to deal with the situation. Most consumers that contact
us are in the latter situation, and need legal advice on how to deal with their counterpart.
Lectures and classes:
Our lectures and classes are free of charge to a certain degree. Our typical lecture is between one
and two hours of general consumer law, focusing on consumer purchases, consumer services and
distance contracts. We receive visits from groups, or we visit organizations and different types of
Through methodical investigation and rapid response, we point out problems, create public opinion
and act for improvement on issues and events that affect wider groups of consumers.
Media and outreach work
Based on our experience of consumer issues in a metropolitan region, we act at the national level and
in various consumer policy contexts act to speak up and contribute to the changes that advances
Consumer issues attract a large media interest and we actively try to focus media attention on
current issues and trends.
Mainly telephone and e-mail
Konsument Göteborgs main channels for consumer advice are phone and email. In exceptional cases
we book a personal visit. The advisers themselves decide when such visits are motivated.
Spontaneous visits and visit bookings through the front desk is not applied. Visits are mainly for
complex issues or when a consumer has special needs.
We answer our phones Monday through Thursday, from 9 o’clock to 12 o’clock. E-mails are
answered within 24 hours during weekdays.
Our method for giving consumer advice is self-help. This means that we in different ways provide
consumers with advice and support to help them to independent action.
When speaking with a consumer our focus is to encourage the consumer to be active and act on their
own. We must focus on what is the actual problem or issue and obtain a clear picture of what
consumers themselves want to achieve in means of result. Based on this, we give consumers advice
on how to step by step to do this and how to act in different situations.
We are clear; we clarify our role as advisors and describe the contents of the service we can provide.
We will also tone down overly high expectations of what we can accomplish and avoid getting into
situations where we take over and solve consumer problems. We do not represent the consumer and
nor do we assume the role of mediator in disputes.
The reason for our work with self-help is that we free up resources and space is created for the
outgoing tasks. Through such a development priority, we are able to work with general and structural
interventions that more people can benefit from based on our belief in people's willingness and
ability to act independently and shape their lives. In the long term, we have the opportunity to
strengthen and advance the positions of both priority groups as well as citizens in general.
How does Konsument Göteborg support the consumers?
An example of our consumer services:
1) A phone call from a consumer who has enlisted the services of a carpenter to renovate at home.
Now the consumer and the carpenter can’t agree on how much the carpenter should get paid,
and the consumer is dissatisfied with some of the work.
2) Our consumer receives advice over the phone regarding the rules in the Consumer Services Act
and is given advice on how to formulate a complaint against the carpenter and what to do with
any demands of payment from the carpenter. The consumer is given the direct number to the
advisor answering the call.
3) The consumer calls back after being in contact with the carpenter, informing us that they don’t
see eye to eye.
4) The consumer receives more advice, perhaps that of bringing in a surveyor to assess the quality
of the work of the carpenter.
5) The consumer returns, informing us the surveyor agrees with the consumer, but that the
carpenter won’t accept any responsibility.
6) The consumer is given the advice to register a complaint with Allmänna reklamationsnämnden,
ARN. The advisor explains the process and the importance of evidence documents.
7) The consumer returns with questions on how to fill out the registration form.
8) The advisor assists with advice on that matter.
Allmänna reklamationsnämnden, ARN (info from www.arn.se):
The National Board for Consumer Disputes (ARN) is a public authority that functions roughly like a
court. Their main task is to impartially try disputes between consumers and business operators.
Claims are filed by the consumer. The Board's inquiry is free of charge.
The Board submits recommendations on how disputes should be resolved, for example that the
business operator shall repair the product. The Board's recommendations are not binding, but the
majority of companies (about 70 percent) follow them.
The Board does not provide advice on individual cases, consumers are referred to their consumer
A claim to the board must be made in writing. If the matter is not rejected for formal reasons, the
Board asks the company to comment on the consumer's claims. The consumer in turn has an
opportunity to see and comment on the company's response. Both parties have the right to submit
written evidence in the form of e.g. contracts or certificates of inspection.
It usually takes about six months from the claim to a decision. The dispute is usually settled at a
meeting with the department under which the matter falls. The parties are not entitled to be present
at the meeting.
A department may make a decision when the chairperson and four other members are present. A
department may make a decision with the chairperson and two other members present, unless one
of the members requests that four members participate. The chairperson is a lawyer and has court
experience. The other members come from various consumer and trade organizations. Simple
matters or matters in which the company does not respond are settled at the secretariat.
A claim to ARN must be made within six months of the first time the business operator rejects the
consumer’s complaint in part or in whole.
Additionally, the claim must exceed a certain amount.
If a dispute is of a principle nature or if there are other special circumstances, the Board can choose
to try the dispute despite the claim being below the value limitations.
There are also some other exceptions concerning certain types of matters that the Board does not
The Board can also reject matters that cannot sufficiently be investigated or that otherwise are not
appropriate to the Board's inquiry with regard to the Board's written procedures and simplified
working methods. This can affect e.g. matters, which require submission of verbal evidence, or large
or complicated cases that require a comprehensive investigation.
The Board's inquiry is normally limited to contracts that have been entered into in Sweden.
Consumers that have come into conflict with a business operator in a country within the EU other
than their own can turn to their European Consumer Centre for advice and help. The Swedish
European Consumer Centre is called Konsument Europa.
Lectures and classes
School visits are a big part of our work. In the spring semester, week 8 to week 20 earlier this year,
we made 35 visits in 22 schools and met 832 students in the age of 15. We are also visiting a bit older
students studying to become craftsmen. In the same period we made 17 visits and met 229 students.
All together we met 1061 pupils in just this spring.
When we are lecturing for students we do it by playing different games. For those pupils who are
about 15 years old we have PANK (broke in English) and Shopping. If we start with Shopping, it is a
game where we divide the class in smaller groups and each group assume a specific role. The whole
class will then read a case and each group will then act according to the character. For instance, one
character will buy the thing and another character will not. This is made after each group has
discussed the case and decided which option fits the character. After the game the consumer advisor
discusses all the cases with the pupils and teaches them about consumer rights.
The other game, PANK, is similar but focuses more on money. The goal is to shop as much as it is
possible without being broke. The students have to deal with consumer rights and analyze the
consequence of a choice.
We are offering all teachers in our area having consumer rights classes in at schools these games.
When we say vulnerable groups we mean groups in our society which need a bit extra help. For
example we have immigrants not yet speaking good Swedish (SFI), seniors and long time unemployed
persons. For those we offer special lectures in consumer rights.
Lectures for companies
We are also lecturing companies selling to consumers since we believe that benefits the consumers
in the long term. For example, consumers were complaining much on the companies selling
consumer electronics so we gave them lectures. Today we can see the complaints decreased to a
normal level. These lectures are not free.
Collaboration projects with industry associations, senior citizen organizations
To reach many companies we have collaboration with the Swedish Trade Federation and Inner City
Federation in Gothenburg. We also have collaboration with the five biggest Senior Organizations in
Gothenburg. With their help we are able to make market controls.
Investigates product safety & collaboration with the Swedish Consumer Agency, a government
From time to time we are investigating the product safety of products. Most of these times the
Swedish Consumer Agency is making an investigation and wants the local consumer advisors to make
the field work by going out in the shops. We made one with magnets in toys and one by controlling
the companies’ price information according to the Swedish law. After the investigations we send our
material to the Agency which decides what to do.
The Swedish Consumer Agency is a state agency whose task is to safeguard consumer interests.
About 120 people work at the agency with different types of consumer issues. Safety with regard to
goods and services, company advertising and contract conditions, domestic finances and consumerrelated disabled and environmental issues are but a few of the agency’s work areas. We also train
the municipalities’ consumer advisers as well as budget and debt advisers. In addition, we monitor
consumer interests within the EU. Another important task is to produce up-to-date and relevant
information for Sweden’s consumers on our web site.
The Swedish Consumer Agency is headed by a Director General who is also Consumer Ombudsman
(Konsumentombudsman, KO). KO can represent consumer interests in relations with businesses and
pursue legal action in the courts.
The government and the parliament determine consumer policy objectives and the direction of the
work of the Swedish Consumer Agency.
The overall objectives of Swedish consumer policy: Consumers have the power and possibility to
make active choices. The Swedish Consumers Agency’s overall objectives are: Aware and secure
The Swedish Consumer Agency does not (yet) have the possibility to answer individual questions or
to intervene in individual disputes. Providing advice to individual consumers is the task of local
(municipal) consumer advisers.
Investigations based on complaints
A big part of our work is to take phone calls and give advice to consumers. As we are registration the
concerns of people and we find out specific complaints we can act and do own investigations. Last
year we made an investigation of the gyms in Gothenburg area and found faults in the terms
consumers have to accept for become costumers. We wrote to the companies and all except one
changed their terms. The one which did not change was reported to the Swedish Consumer Agency.
We have also made own investigations about the hairdressers’ pricing and the terms of different
dating sites. The investigations end up with a press release and possibly reporting to the Swedish
The purpose of our work with public relations is to strengthen our brand and reach out with
important information to consumers that do not contact us.
Regular appearances in media such as radio, press, TV:
Once a month, spring, fall and winter, we appear in Swedish radio, broadcasting in Gothenburg, with
up to 200 000 listeners. It’s a 30 minute show about current consumer issues.
The local newspapers, such as Göteborgs Posten with up to 500 000 readers, often contact us on
consumer issues. We act as experts, explaining the rules in the consumer area regarding for example
a newspaper article about a consumer‘s problem with some company.
The local TV-stations in Gothenburg, TV4 Göteborg and SVT Västnytt (with the same range as GP),
also contact us regularly to get comments on consumer cases in their news reporting.
51 appearances in media during the first half of 2013, disregarding our standing radio appearances.
Press releases concerning market controls, common complaints etc.:
6 press releases concerning consumer rights during the first six months of 2013. For example we
have reported dating sites and travel agencies to the Swedish Consumer Agency for having contract
terms that violate Swedish consumer rules. We often get local media coverage as a result of our
We have different accounts on social media to reach consumers that do not contact us. It is also an
easy way to reach out to journalists and media, especially Twitter.
On Facebook and Twitter we comment on consumer news, and market our events. On YouTube we
publish short video clips with consumer tips. On Instagram we publish photos of our public events.
Individual contacts 2012
Phone: 10.281, email: 1.671, visitors: 1.457, other: 21
The area”home electronics” consists of the telecom market (broadband, cell phone subscriptions),
and home electronics (TV, stereo etc.)
The area”household, craftsmen” mainly consists of craftsmen, like carpenters, painters, house
Distant contracts consists mainly of contracts which the consumer have made via internet or phone.
We really do have a big problem with a lot of companies acting in the shadows (so to speak). We and
Konsumentverket (the national consumers organization) work hard to get rid of those companies,
but as soon as one is gone, there is another taking its place.
Real estate: There are also quite a lot of questions regarding buying and selling real estate, and those
questions usually involves a large amount of money. Those questions can be quite complicated and
we often have to tell the consumer to seek a lawyer to assist them since we do not have the time nor
the ability to go that deep into such cases..
Other: The areas mentioned above are our most common areas. We also have areas such as children,
finance, insurance, furniture etc.
If we do a search on the company name to see which companies are ”worst”, the first four hits will
be for operators within the telecom are. (Tele2, Telenor, Telia and Tre ”Hi3G”) – and after that there
is the two largest home electronics company (Mediamarkt, Elgiganten). And after that there is a car
company (Hedin Bil).
However, out of those 13.000 plus cases, there is only 3.500 which have a company name. About
9.500 of the cases doesn’t have a company name attached to it. The reason for this is that we only
put the name in the register if there is no doubt that the company has made an error. If a consumer
calls us (and this is pretty common) just to get informed about his or her rights, we do not (and shall
not) write down the company’s name since the company at that stage really hasn’t done anything
Information in English is available at
http://ei.se/en/ (The Energy Markets Inspectorate supervise the Swedish electricity, natural gas
and district heating markets. The Inspectorate works for an improvement of the functioning and
efficiency of these markets.)
http://energimyndigheten.se/en/ (The Swedish Energy Agency works for the use of renewable
energy, improved technologies, a smarter end-use of energy, and mitigation of climate change.)