The Consumer Safety Act (920/2011) covers various programme and tourism services, such as snowmobile safaris and different types of rental services offered to consumers. The statutory obligations described below apply to providers of programme services, but these obligations do not apply in the same manner to those only providing rental services. Under the Consumer Safety Act, operators have always the duty to take care of their customers’ safety.
Consumer safety in snowmobile services is a topical issue. There have been a lot of cases of injury, including serious accidents, in the context of snowmobile services. The provision of snowmobile services involves several risk factors that operators must be aware of and take into consideration in their activities under the duty to take care laid down in section 5 of the Consumer Safety Act. Snowmobile services provided as consumer services often have a large number of Finnish and foreign tourists as customers, and these people do not necessarily have any previous experience of riding a snowmobile before their participation in the service. Those participating in a safari or hiring a snowmobile may be riding a snowmobile for the first time in their life. When such inexperience is coupled with the strong engine of a snowmobile, rapidly accelerating speed and controls the rider is not familiar with, the situation becomes risky. The Finnish conditions are also challenging for foreign tourists not used to snow, ice, darkness and cold temperatures. Language difficulties also often make it difficult to understand instructions and advice.
A checklist for snowmobile services was completed by Tukes. The checklist is mainly intended for government use. The checklist, however, is so extensive and detailed that it is also useful to operators in the field when they conduct risk assessments and develop their self-control practices. According to Tukes’s view, the overall safety of snowmobile services can be considerably improved through careful safety planning concerning issues such as the routes used as well as by providing consumers with sufficient instruction to familiarise them with how to operate a snowmobile and the basic rules of snowmobiling. Service staff must also have the capabilities and procedures to ensure this competence is achieved. Efforts have been made to underline the importance of safe routes and consumer familiarisation in the checklist. The snowmobile services checklist can, as applicable, also be utilised in safety assessments concerning other safari services.
The Consumer Safety Act lays down requirements to those service providers whose services involve considerable risks. Therefore those including providers of playground, amusement park, adventure, experience and nature services, climbing centre or swimming beach services must draw up a written safety document concerning their activities (under section 7 of the Act). Further provisions on the content of the safety document are laid down under Government decree 1110/2011.
The impacts of the Act on operators providing snowmobile services differ depending on whether the service is a consumer service regarded as a programme service or a mere snowmobile hire service. All operators must, however, comply with the duty to take care laid down in section 5 and the duty to provide information laid down in section 9 of the Act. In addition, operators offering, for example, guided snowmobile safaris are covered by the duty to provide information and the duty to draw up a specific safety document laid down in the Act because such services can be regarded as consumer adventure, experience and nature services or other programme services comparable to these, unless the risk involved can be considered insignificant.