Consumer complaints – what to do if it all turns sour!

Whilst there are a great many honest and reliable businesses providing quality merchandise and services in Tenerife, we have all heard tales of woe regarding purchases of cameras, electrical goods, bad service etc.

Common sense tells us if it sounds too good to be true it probably is! However the following rights apply everywhere in the EU including Tenerife:
• If the item you bought does not look or function as it was advertised, or if it is not satisfactory, you have the right to have the item replaced at no extra cost or to get your money back if the replacement is not completed in a reasonable time.
• If you buy goods that turn out to be faulty, manufacturers must compensate you for any personal injury or damage caused to property.
• Whether you buy goods or services by post, telephone, fax, or through the Internet from a professional trader, you have the same rights in relation to guarantees as if you had bought them in a shop.
But the question is what can you do about it if you think you have a claim?

If you are still on the island your first point of call should be to the trader themselves to try and resolve the matter amicably – if this doesn’t work you should ask for a complaint sheet “Hoja de Reclamaciones.” There is a legal requirement for all establishments to have these available and they are not allowed to make you go to another branch or office to get one. “Hoja de Reclamaciones” are carbonised forms made up of a white copy (for the authorities), a pink copy (for the establishment) and a green copy (for the person making the complaint). The establishment must fill in their identification details. If “Hojas de Reclamaciones” are not available, are not fully completed by the trader or are refused, customers can present a complaint to the authorities. They should include in their complaint the fact that an “Hoja de Reclamaciones” was not available etc. This is best done in Spanish if you possibly can.

Customers should state their name, address, and ID number or passport number, and fill in all relevant boxes on the form, stating clearly the reasons for their complaint, and the date on which the complaint is made.
Once the form is completed, it should be signed by a representative of the establishment, who can add any comments they consider appropriate. You should then retain the green copy for your records, hand over the pink copy to the establishment. The original white copy has to be sent to the local Consumer Authorities (see contact information below) within one month, together with any appropriate proof or documents, especially receipts if the complaint concerns prices, which should be attached to the form (remember to keep photocopies for yourself).
The Local Consumer Authority should acknowledge receipt of the “Hoja de Reclamaciones” within 15 working days of receipt. They will then notify the establishment about the complaint, and allow them 10 working days to reply.
Proceedings will be initiated, if and as appropriate, and the Consumer Authority will advise the plaintiff of its decision.
Completing this form does not prejudice your rights to also make a complaint in person to the appropriate consumer authorities and if you need to do that or you were not given an “Hoja de Reclamaciones” by the trader you should look for an “Oficina Municipal de Información al Consumidor” (OMIC) In the south and west coast these are located at:

Edificio Hacienda Municipal del Ayuntamiento de Adeje,
C/Tinerfe el Grande nº 32.
Teléfono: 922 711 484 Ext. 1010 y 1009.
macuqc@adeje.es

GRAL. FRANCO, S/N
CENTRO CULTURAL LOS CRISTIANOS
38650 – ARONA
Tel: 922/75 71 37 FAX: 922/75 24 92
consumo@arona.org

AVDA. MARITIMA, EDIFICIO SEGURO
38683 – SANTIAGO DEL TEIDE
Tel: 922/86 03 48 FAX: 922/86 03 48
santiagodelteide@yahoo.es

A full list of the OMIC offices in the island is available here: http://www.consumo-inc.es

You can also make use of the European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net) of unattended computer terminals, or “Virtual Offices”, which are placed in strategic locations in major tourist areas.
The terminals have touch screens so that users can access information on the services provided by the European Consumer Centre in Spain through its website. You can also fill in a complaint form on line and send it to the ECC in Spain, whose consumer advisers will process the forms and contact the customer direct. In Tenerife these are located at the Los Cristianos Cultural centre in the Plaza del Pescador and at the Troya Tourist Office in Calle Rafael Puig Lluvina, Playa de las Américas.

But what to do if you have returned to the UK before you find out your purchase is faulty?
The Spanish European Consumer Centre (CEC) is a public service organisation for consumers who require information or assistance in connection with the acquisition of goods or the use of services in a country other than their own and you can deal with them in English.
They are part of the European wide ECC-Net, of organisations and institutions which operate in a similar way, have similar powers and objectives, and are located in each of the Member States of the European Union.
The European Consumer Centre can help you if you are a citizen of a Community state who purchases goods or uses services in any part of Spanish territory and you can submit your enquiry via their website here: http://cec.consumo-inc.es/cec/Secciones/Contacta/Contacta_en.asp

Most honest traders do cooperate with the various national and European consumer associations but although in some cases these may instigate sanctions against a trader if they are in breach of current regulations, it does not necessarily mean that the consumer will be recompensed.

You may ultimately decide to go to the arbitration courts. If you are in Spain you should do that through the OMICs there is a standard form here: http://www.consumo-inc.es/Arbitraje/solArbitraje.htm or through the CEC if you are outside Spain, both can contact suppliers and mediate between them and customers, until a satisfactory solution has been reached. If this is not possible, they will assist and advise you with regard to any alternative means of resolution prior to the commencement of legal proceedings, which in Tenerife can be a lengthy and possibly expensive procedure.

Mindful of the differences in member state’s legal systems, on the 11 July 2007 the European Parliament adopted a regulation establishing a European Small Claims Procedure. The regulation is intended to simplify and speed up litigation concerning small claims in cross-border cases, and to reduce costs. It applies to civil and commercial matters where the value of a claim does not exceed 2,000euros. The procedure came into effect on January 1 this year. More information can be found on this website:
http://ec.europa.eu/justice_home/judicialatlascivil/html/sc_information_en.htm However litigation should never be a “do it yourself” affair and should always be thought of as a last result if all else fails.

What about complaints against Financial Institutions

You should always approach the complaints department of your own bank first but if you are not satisfied then your next option is the complaints department of the Bank of Spain they take up the claim on the behalf of the client.

Here is the “how to” (In Spanish)

 

https://www.bde.es/clientebanca/es/areas/quejas/reclamaciones/

Remember, if you do not speak Spanish, and need to deal with a shop or tradesperson regarding a query or complaint The One Stop Problem Shop can assist you with the initial contact so that there are no language difficulties to exacerbate a possibly already inflamed situation!
Contact us for help with consumer problems, along with the many other forms of bureaucracy you may encounter in your daily life in Tenerife.
Call us on 922 86 74 78 or email help@diana-mcglone.com