Your Swedish consumer rights: What you need to know

Maybe you’ve had a flight cancelled recently or a package holiday you went on didn’t live up to its promises. Or perhaps a product you ordered online arrived long after it was due. What would you do next? Are you aware of your consumer rights?

Your Swedish consumer rights: What you need to know
Travel problems? Find out where to go for free help and advice. Photo: Getty Images

It can be hard to know basic things like your consumer rights and who to turn to for help when you are living in a foreign country. 

As consumers handing over our hard earned money for goods and services, there can be nothing worse than feeling ripped off or disappointed. Even more frustrating is not knowing what to do about it. Then there are the rights we don’t even realise we have. Like, did you know travellers affected by certain flight delays and cancellations could be eligible for up to €600 in compensation?

So we spoke to legal advisor Nora Shoki from European Consumer Centre Sweden (ECC Sweden) to find out about the most common issues and how to get free assistance if you need it.

ECC Sweden offers legal advice and mediation on consumer rights in cross-border trade within the EU, Iceland, Norway and the UK. Last year alone it received 7,189 questions. 

As part of the ECC Network, ECC Sweden can assist consumers by putting them in touch with other offices in its EU-wide network to help resolve issues. In 2021, ECC Sweden shared 110 complaints to its colleagues within the ECC Network, and in turn it received 934 cases involving Swedish traders. 

The most common problems

The two biggest areas for consumer issues, according to ECC Sweden, are online shopping and travel. 

Online shopping continues to grow in the EU. A 2021 Eurostat survey showed that 90 percent of people aged 16 to 74 in the EU had used the internet the year before, 74 percent of whom had bought or ordered goods or services for private use. And when it comes to who shops online the most in the EU, Sweden ranks in the top three (after the Netherlands and Denmark).

It makes sense that a rise in online shopping also means a rise in issues around ecommerce. Most of us would have had some sort of online shopping experience that wasn’t quite right. It’s hard to tell the quality of something from a computer screen. Maybe the fabric or sizing was bad, your item turned up broken, or didn’t arrive at all.

Another area that has always been a cause for consumer problems is travel. The enormous amount of disruption to air travel brought on by the pandemic has meant many more cases concerning airlines in recent years, says Nora. 

Dealing with cancelled travel? Get free legal help and information on your Swedish consumer rights from ECC Sweden

Nora Shoki from ECC Sweden can help you with your consumer rights.

What to do if you have an issue

If you’ve had an issue buying something – whether a product or service – or are curious to know more about your rights as a Swedish consumer, the first port of call for information should be the website Halla Konsument (Hello Consumer), explains Nora. This is an independent service by Konsumentverket (the Swedish Consumer Agency), with information in a range of languages. Hello Consumer also has a range of guides depending on your issue – from cancelled flights to card complaints to problems with a hotel to finding out exactly what your right of withdrawal is. 

“Hello Consumer can assist people with their consumer issues, and if they need further assistance in their case, and the trader is based within the EU, Norway, Iceland or the UK, then they can transfer the case to us at ECC Sweden,” says Nora.

“Perhaps you’re not able to solve the dispute or the company doesn’t respond when you contact them,” she explains. In that case, Nora advises you can contact ECC Sweden and they will help in the best way they can. Sometimes knowing your rights plus having an official letter can really help you get taken more seriously!

“We’ll firstly provide legal advice on how to solve the case. And if the consumer isn’t able to solve the case by themselves, then we’ll investigate it based on the documentation that we received from the consumer. And if necessary, we’ll send the case to the ECC office in which the trader is based,” says Nora, adding that they can also mediate with a company to fight for the consumer’s rights. 

“It’s important for the consumers to know that we’re always standing by their side.

“For example, if we have a Swedish consumer, her name is Anna, she has a dispute with an airline that is based in Germany, we’ll send the case to our colleagues at ECC Germany, and they will contact the airline in order to mediate between Anna and the airline.”

In general, people know when something is wrong, says Nora. But when it comes down to the specifics of a law that helps a consumer – like when you’re eligible for compensation from a delayed flight, or how long you can own something before it is no longer covered by a warranty – people tend not to know their exact rights and how to use them. 

Explains Nora, “Say you buy something online and it arrives in your letterbox and it’s faulty in some way or another. In Sweden, by law, you have up to three years to file a complaint on faulty products. And if you purchase the product from a company in another EU country, you have at least two years.”

Hello Consumer’s site contains all the rules and regulations of buying online, and further advice if you need it, in one handy place

Shopping online doesn’t always go to plan. Photo: Getty Images

Things to know

There are a few instances when ECC Sweden is not able to help out. Like if the dispute is between two traders or between private persons.

If a consumer has already initiated legal action, such as if they’re already contacted a lawyer about going to court with a case or a complaint has been filed with Allmänna reklamationsnämnden (the National Board for Consumer Disputes), ECC Sweden is not able to assist them

Naturally, some cases may be more complicated than others. Nora points out a typical instance related to travel. 

“These days it is common for us to buy airfares through an online travel agency,” she says. “But if something goes wrong, it’s worth knowing that your opponent in the dispute, according to EU law, is the airline, not the travel agency.”

This doesn’t mean, however, that Nora recommends purchasing your airfares directly from the airline. Just be aware that you may need to be in contact with more than one company if your flight is cancelled or there is some other issue. 

Read up on your rights

So what can we do to better protect ourselves and avoid consumer rights headaches in the future? 

Nora advises to be prepared for what might happen. Read about your rights, spend a few minutes researching the company before you buy or sign anything. Another two minutes of your time should also be spent reading the terms and conditions, she says.

Also consider how you make your purchase. Using a credit card usually means you can use the bank’s service to get your money back if you need to. 

And it is worth knowing where a company is based before you make a purchase, because if it is outside the EU, Iceland, Norway or the UK, your rights will be different. 

“It’s important to understand that if you live in Sweden, you have all the rights that other Swedish citizens have,” says Nora. “That would be my number one message.”

Get free legal help and information on your Swedish consumer rights from ECC Sweden

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My night on board Sweden’s new sleeper service from Hamburg

Our reporter Richard Orange took the new SJ EuroNight sleeper home from Hamburg at the start of this month with his two children. He tells us what it was like.

My night on board Sweden's new sleeper service from Hamburg

As we clambered onto the s-bahn at Hamburg Central to race across to Hamburg Altona, Alan, the friendly English chemistry researcher who had volunteered to show us the way, made a quick calculation.

“I think you’ll have at most two minutes to make it to the train, and you need to make it up to the station and up two flights of stairs.”

I rated our chances at less than 10 percent. I had booked the new sleeper launched by Sweden’s state-owned train company SJ at the very last minute (and at considerable cost) after discovering to my horror that the Danish seats-only night train I’d been planning on taking did not run on Saturdays.

My two children and I had been on the train since our Eurostar left London at 9am, and I didn’t fancy putting them through a night on the platform at Hamburg Central.

Our reporter with his traumatised-looking children, Finn (9) and Eira (10).

Hamburg Altona, a terminal station in the west of the city, is the departure point for SJ’s sleeper. Normally, the metro trip would only be slightly inconvenient, but when you’re racing to make a connection, it’s a nightmare. Thankfully, the sleeper will start to depart from the central station in March.

The moment we hit Altona, Alan, who lives nearby, shot off, me and my two children trailing behind as he flew up staircase after staircase.

Finally we arrived puffing at the platform, where we could see a train with an SJ logo, but the entrance to the platform was blocked. Had we missed it? “Do you have a ticket?” asked the guard, wearing a warm SJ jacket, and when I said yes gestured to the long line of people snaking right out to the station door.

I don’t think I’ve ever been more grateful for a system failure. It turned out SJ had somehow lost access to the records of who was supposed to be on the train, or where they were supposed to sleep, and were having to work out the sleeping arrangements manually, one passenger at a time.

Alan, a researcher at Hamburg’s Max Planck Institute, wished us goodbye and we joined the back of the queue, where we met a Swedish woman who’d come all the way from Italy with her red setter, a journey she said she’d been doing quite regularly ever since the sleeper service was launched in September.

Annoyingly, she told me that it was possible to get a reduced price on the sleeper if you have an Interrail card (as we did). When I checked, you could get a couchette from Hamburg to Stockholm for about 385 kronor, about a third of the price we paid. I went back to the guard and asked if there was any chance of getting our money back, at which point he erupted in mocking laughter.


Half an hour later, at about half past ten, we finally got our seats. The woman who’d come from Italy was turned back, however, as she hadn’t booked a bed in a special dog compartment for her red setter.

We trundled up to the train, finding a young couple and a man with a Middle-Eastern background already in bed with their sheets laid out.

“It’s got beds! I’ve never been on a train with beds before!” Finn exclaimed as he sawn the couchette compartment. Unfortunately there were only two beds for us. The Thai-Swedish SJ guard disappeared into her cabin when we pointed this out, and after a short phone call came back and told the man with a Middle-Eastern background that he had to move to make space for us.

“I hope that wasn’t some kind of discrimination,” I said to the young couple after he’d gone. It was probably because he was travelling alone, however, and we later discovered that he’d been upgraded to a luxury two-person sleeper cabin, which assuaged my guilty conscience. In a further sign of the guards’ ability to improvise, when I bumped into the woman with the red setter while brushing my teeth, she said they’d also managed to accommodate her.

The couchette cars are refurbished, with free water, and USB ports for recharging your various devices. They are old, but they’re comfortable enough and Eira and Finn were both fast asleep within minutes of the train rolling out of the Hamburg.

I had just about drifted off by the time I was woken by border police at the Danish border at around midnight, sleepily reaching down from the top couchette to show them our passports.

My hope was that departing more than an hour late would delay our arrival in Malmö, which was scheduled for just before 4am, but unfortunately, the train normally travels more slowly than it needs to to allow passengers a proper night sleep, so it easily made up the lost hour.

At about quarter to four I got a friendly knock on the door, and shook the children awake in time to see the lights of Malmö’s Turning Torso tower as we crossed the Öresund Bridge.

For the remaining five or ten minutes, Eira and Finn excited pointed out “Swedish” out-of-town shopping centres until the train arrived at a completely deserted Malmö station, from where we took a taxi home.

How to get an interrail discount on the Hamburg Stockholm sleeper

On the sök resa or “search journey” page on SJ’s website, you need to click on the drop-down menu next to resenärer or “traveller”, then, when you see your name, click on ändra or “change”. Then click on another drop-down menu on välj ett kort or “choose a card”, at which point you can press Interrail and fill in your Interrail card number. You can find a guide on how to do it here on SJ’s website