PR Legislation and Regulation in Finland
Freedom House, a watch dog group for press freedom around the globe, declares Finland a ‘Free’ country for several reasons: empowerment of people to change their government by democratic means, religious freedom, protection of religious and ethnic rights of minorities, constitutional provision of independent judiciary. Finland was declared ‘least corrupt country’ by Transparency International (“Finland”, 2003). On the other hand, there is a rise in xenophobia and racism (“Finland”, 2003). Moreover, government can directly interfere in the working of free media as long as it is deemed unavoidable (“Act on the Exercise of Freedom of Expression in Mass Media”, 2003).
Finland is concerned for the privacy of its citizens and the safety of their personal information, as well as the protection of children from marketing. The Finnish people have given their government the power to censor corporate speech to a great degree.
While there is extensive legislation protecting Finnish citizens from unwanted marketing, particularly through mail and the phone, there is little on record that addresses public relations, or public corporate communications specifically, as opposed to private endeavors for profit.
Personal Data Act of 1999: Non-disclosure of Personal Information - Every Finnish citizen has the right to deny the disclosure of personal information, including names and phone numbers, for marketing purposes. Restrictions cover direct advertising, direct marketing, distance sales, market surveys, opinion polls, disclosure of address, genealogical research or membership rolls. Registering with the Population Registration Centre by phone or in an online format will deny the release and use of such information to corporations. There is no distinction between private and public sector research, however. Citizens can also deny the use of information in census and genealogical research (“Non-disclosure,” 2005).
Consumer Protection Act of 1997: Marketing by email or by sending commercial text messages without the recipient’s permission is forbidden by this act. The Market Court has prohibited the sending of commercial text messages to consumers’ mobile phones, unless the consumer has given his prior consent.
This act also supplies special protection for minors under the age of 18. For example, no product may be directly marketed to a child or encourage him or her to buy it. The intention of marketing must also be clear, and the intentions of all such endeavors must be easily recognizable, particularly in the case of marketing children’s products. Direct advertising may not be sent to children under the age of 15 without their parents' consent. Direct marketing aimed at people between the ages of 15 and 17 is under great scrutiny, and the consent of parents is required for all types of marketing materials, including advertising and promotional advertisements.
These exclusions do not apply, however, to materials used for instruction. The Finnish National Board of Education encourages companies to interact with children on an educational level, allowing them to make real-world distinctions between different types of communication (“Cooperation between schools,” 2004).
Act on the Protection of Privacy and Data of 1999: This law prohibits direct marketing forwarded by automatic systems or fax without the recipient’s prior consent. Compliance with this law is overseen by the Consumer Protection Ombudsman (“Prohibiting direct marketing,” n.d.).
Act on Co-operation within Undertakings: This law provides guidelines for a company’s internal communications. Employers are obliged to provide information to their employee, which can lead to information that can have an influence on employee’s work and work environment. Moreover, this law also encourages group ‘co-corporation’ resulting in two-way communication between management and staff (“Act on Co-operation within Undertakings”, 1978).
The Securities Markets Act: This act regulates corporate communication between the stock exchange listed company and its investors (“The Securities Markets Act”, 2006).
Unfair Business Practices Act: This act regulates deceptive marketing. According to this act, marketing language should clearly identify with its marketed message. This law also prevents marketers from making false claims about their own and other’s business; if that claim directly affects the demand and supply of a product or cause harm to other business (“Unfair Business Practices Act”, 2002).
Helsinki Final Act of 1975
This act, which was not direct legislation, but more a focal point for Finnish activity within Europe, established a need to foster the exchange of information between the private and public sectors. This need would be manifested in direct relationships between journalists and companies, and also provided a better, freer working condition for journalists in Finland. The real legislation that emerged from the act is difficult to trace, and there is little evidence that these portions of the act have been addressed fully (Helsinki Final Act, 1995). The act has since been superseded by Finland’s entrance into the EU in 1995 (“The Story of Finland,” 2001). There are heavy restrictions placed on the telecommunications industry, which are not directly related to public relations, but does have an impact on its success when the use of this medium is necessary (Communications Market Act, 2003).
NOTE: This guide has been compiled by the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management, For the works cited in these pages, click here.