Gain or trap?

The Austrian Federal Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection (BMASK) published a brochure regarding promotional trips. It gives tips about what consumers should consider when registrating for or attending such trips. 

 

Caution is necessary

 

Many consumers received notifications about unexpected winnings or vouchers for cheap journeys which they can pick up at a "comfortable get-together with beverages" in a restaurant. And of course they can bring their friends...

 

In reality, such writings are often only the beginning of well-done presentations of any kind. Highly overpriced dietary supplements are praised as magic cures, medical products of cheap quality are being sold for a lot more then they are actually worth and trusting consumers are being send on "almost free" journeys. However, consumers are asked to pay further fees and charges after booking and during the journey.

 

In most cases, these companies are presenting themselves as professional and serious, they advertise via senior citizen associations or add official and governmental signs to their portfolio (like the federal eagle).

 

Due to amendments of the industrial code since 2008, it has become easier for consumers to detect such cases. But caution is still necessary.

 

I got invited to a promotional event...

 

1) The combination with prize notifications or free services is forbidden!

 

Promises of any gifts or prizes in mailings to consumers are permitted (like "you will win at least €1000, guaranteed!").

The BMASK is not aware of any case where the promised money was ever actually paid to the consumer.

 

TIP! If you receive mail with this sort of gift or prize notifications, you can submit them to the authorities in charge or turn to the next police station.

 

2) The invitation has to include a minimum of specific information!

  • Name (company) of the tradesperson, complete address (a post office box is not sufficient) as well as date and place of the event.
  • Characterisation of the offered goods and services.
  • In case of advertisments for journeys: Name (company) and location of the tour operator.
  • A note regarding the prohibition on accepting orders or selling on-site at the event.

TIP! If these informations are missing - keep away!

 

3) The event has to be officially announced to the authorities!

 

If such events are taking place in Austria, they have to be announced in advance and with specific documents to the district administration in charge (BH, Magistrat). Two weeks before the event, it has to be clear whether or not such a registration exists.

 

If the event takes place abroad, the sending of invitations to Austrian citizens has to be announced to the Austrian administration in charge (either the administration at the location of the company or at the location where participants would get picked up by the tour operators).

 

TIP! Ten days before the event, ask the district administration in charge whether or not the promotional event was announced correctly. If not - keep away!

 

Note! Less protection during trips abroad!

 

With trips to other countries, companies try to avoid the strict regulations in Austria.

 

Check in advance if the company is already known by authorities!

 

Since November 2011, the Chamber of Labour of Lower Austria (Arbeiterkammer, AK NÖ), together with BMASK, AK Vienna, the federal provinces of Lower Austria and Burgenland, started the initiative "Hands off promotional trips" and created a database of such unprofessional or dubious companies.

At the website www.haendewegvonwerbefahrten.at, a "black list" of companies which attracted negative attention in the past was published.

 

The simple fact that the inviting company is not listed doesn't mean it is trustworthy. Check the points mentioned above regarding minimum information required.

 

During the promotional event...

 

Please note: A registration according to formal standards is no guarantee for a serious event!

  • The organisers of the event are not allowed to take orders!
  • They are not allowed to sell goods on-site!
  • The presentation of some products is forbidden in Austria: Nutrition supplements, medical products, therapeutic aids, cosmetic products, watches made of precious metal, gold and platinum goods.
  • The advertised products are usually more expensive than in normal trade and the organisers work with all kinds of tricks.
  • They name fantasy prices for substandard products and then gradually cut prices as "special offers".
  • A healthy dose of suspicion is appropriate when it comes to exaggerated promises regarding the products.
  • The more they try to convince you to buy something, the more you should decline.

Caution with post office box addresses!

 

In case of dispute, a claim can only be submitted to a complete address. A post office box is not sufficient. The legal enforcement is very complicated when the company is located abroad.

 

TIP! Don't sign anything on-site!

 

Just take some information material and don't let them convince you that "tomorrow it will be too late".

 

TIP! NO advance payments and NO payments for products and services at the event!

 

If you still bought something and now doubts are rising...

 

According to the Fern- und Auswärtsgeschäfte-Gesetz (FAGG) or the Consumer Protection Law (KSchG), you are entitled to withdraw within 14 days. The company has to deliver information in written form, at least including name, address, everything necessary to identify the contract and an instruction about the right to withdraw.

 

TIP! Don't let them intimidate you or put you under pressure!

 

Send your notice of withdrawal as a registered letter or demand a receipt confirmation when you hand it over. If they made any misleading statements regarding the product, you have the possibility to protest against the concluded contract based on mistake or "reduction of the true value by half" ("laesio enormis"/"Verkürzung über die Hälfte"). If the purchased product is defective, the mandatory legal guarantee applies.

 

If you have any further questions, please turn to the next consumer protection body (for national cases, the Verein für Konsumenteninformation VKI offers help, for cross-border cases please contact the European Consumer Centre Austria, ECC).

Copyright German article: BMASK