Consumer Affairs Minister Birgitta Ohlsson

New budget to include consumer hotline

The Swedish government is to allocate SEK 60 million over four years to fund a new consumer information service. It would provide advice to consumers online and by telephone.

But critics say it would undermine existing services.

In the latest in a series of press releases and other announcements about the coming budget, Consumer Affairs Minister Birgitta Ohlsson writes in the newspaper Dagens Nyheter Sunday that current consumer advice from local and other public agencies is inadequate or unfamiliar.

 “Today there are half a million Swedes without consumer advice,” she writes. “The state must take responsibility when some municipalities fail.”

The Swedish Consumer Agency,” she says, “receives 80,000 complaints a year from desperate Swedes who primarily live in municipalities where there is no consumer support at all.”

The agency would run the new hotline.

But Örjan Brinkman, president of the Swedish Consumers’ Association, tells Swedish Radio News that the funding is nowhere near enough for the task of building up such an operation.

He says the government should spend the money on improving local consumer advice services, which he says the hotline will undermine.

Asked by Swedish Radio News if creating a state consumer advice hotline might lead to municipalities closing down what services they currently offer, the minister says “I certainly hope not, because personal meetings are still very important.”

A joint e-mailbox for public agencies

IT Minister Anna-Karin Hatt says the government will spend SEK 38 million next year to set up a single web portal or mailbox to access services.

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