Consumers Rights and Users Rights
Abusive Clauses in your Mortgage Contract
WHAT IS A CONSUMER OR USER?
All individuals or bodies corporate of any nationality
or origin acquiring, using or enjoying, as the end user, goods, services, products,
activities or functions, whatever the legal character of the producers, vendors,
lenders or distributors.
The individuals or bodies corporate who are not end users
are not considered as consumers or users; in other words, the consideration of consumer
or user shall not apply to those who purchase, store, use or enjoy goods or services
with a view to integrating them into the organisation or exercise of a business
or professional activity or for the provision of services to third parties.
The rights and interests of consumers and users, as well as their health and safety,
are widely covered by European and Spanish legislation and the regional legislation
of Valencia. The various authorities are obliged to guarantee the protection of
the rights and interests of consumers and users and to provide the corresponding
information and education, as well as to encourage the associations thereof.
MAIN RIGHTS OF CONSUMERS AND USERS
The main rights of consumers and users are as follows:
- Right to the protection of their health and safety.
- Right to the protection of their economic and social rights.
- Right to correct information about the goods
and services (form of use, risks, correct labelling, etc.).
- Right to appropriate
education and training in consumer matters.
- Right to representation, consultation
and participation of consumers and users through their corresponding associations
for matters related to consumerism and markets.
- Right to legal, administrative
and technical protection provided by the public authorities to enable the free selection
and correction of situations involving inferiority, subordination and defencelessness.
- Right to indemnification or reparation for damages.
Whatsoever waiver of any of
the above rights in the purchase and use of goods or services shall be null and
PROTECTION OF THE RIGHTS OF CONSUMERS AND USERS
Consumers and users have various options for protecting their rights and interests and the said protection can be
individual or through an association of consumers and users. The options are as follows:
Complaint to the company itself
- If you are not satisfied with a service
or product you have received, you should first of all complain to those responsible
for the company.
- Many companies have a customer service where you can file your
complaint. This type of complaint is usually made verbally or over the telephone,
although it is best to do it in writing to ensure a record of your complaint.
- Certain companies (banks, savings banks, insurance companies, etc.) are obliged
to have a client ombudsman, which shall be an individual or entity of prestige,
outside the organisation, to whom you can turn if an agreement is not reached with
the enterprise. The decisions issued by the client ombudsman are binding for the
enterprise, but not for the consumer, who, if not satisfied, can use the other means
available to protect his interests.
Complaint to the authorities
- If you report the enterprise to the authorities and it is demonstrated that the enterprise has
broken the law, it shall be penalised. However, the authorities shall not determine
indemnification for damages in favour of the consumer under any circumstances. Whatsoever
indemnification can be obtained only by amicable agreement, consumer arbitration
or from the courts.
- In some cases, the authorities mediate to help the parties
reach an agreement, but if no agreement is reached, the authorities are unable to
take whatsoever decision.
- Whatever the case, it is best to report the enterprise,
since if it is penalised, it can be used as proof in your favour during the consumer
arbitration process or in the courts.
- Consumers and users have two ways of reporting an enterprise or professional to the authorities:
- Report: in writing to The Municipal
Office of Information for Consumers (OMIC) of the Local Authorities or to the Territorial
Consumer Service of La Generalitat Valenciana (STC)
- Report: in writing to The Municipal
A quadruplicate form, each copy of a different colour (white, green, yellow and pink), written in
Spanish, Valencian, English and French, which should be available in all establishments opened to the public, through which consumers can register a complaint.
The establishments open to the public are obliged to have complaint forms available for clients and
there must be a visible sign informing clients of their existence. The complaint forms should be completed in the establishment itself in Spanish, Valencian, English or French, although it is best to complete the form in Spanish or Valencian or to provide a translation when the white copy is presented.
Consumers should take the white and green copies with them, presenting the white copy to the OMIC or the STC, or, in the case of tourist establishments (hotels, hospitals, country lodges, fairgrounds, travel agencies, restaurants, etc.), to the Municipal Tourist Office (OMT) or the Territorial Tourism Service of La Generalitat Valenciana (STT).
- The Consumer Arbitration System (SAC) is an extrajudicial way of solving disagreements
between consumers and an enterprise or trader.
- It is a quick system: a solution
is obtained in a term of no greater than 4 months.
- It is an effective system:
a mandatory solution is obtained for the parties without the need for going to court.
- It is an economic system: it is mainly free, without court costs and without the
need for lawyers.
- It is a voluntary system: both parties must want to submit to
the system, where the enterprise cannot be forced to do so. Therefore, it is best
to purchase products and services from enterprises who have voluntarily accepted
submission to the SAC, since it is an additional guarantee. These enterprises can
be identified by the following sign. o The application for arbitration can be presented
to the corresponding Consumer Arbitration Board either by the consumer or through
an association of consumers and users. The arbitration shall be resolved by means
of a decision known as the “arbitrator’s award”, which, for all intents and purposes,
is similar to a sentence issued by the courts and is binding for the parties.
- You can turn directly to the courts of justice or do so once a complaint has been
filed to the company without success.
- You cannot turn to the courts if you have
previously submitted the matter to the Consumer Arbitration Board.
- You can turn
to the courts of justice individually with your lawyer, although it is best to do
so through an association of consumers and users.
- There are two options regarding
the courts: civil proceedings and criminal proceedings.
In the civil courts, you can demand various solutions, depending on the problem in question:
- The delivery of the good or the provision of the service under contract or, otherwise,
the return of the price paid.
- Payment of damages.
- Cancellation of a clause in
the contract you consider abusive.
- Fulfilment of the offer made in advertising.
The criminal courts are reserved for more serious cases, when
the complaint may be considered as a crime. For example:
- Injury or death.
- The modification of meters.
- Misleading advertising causing serious damages to
In the criminal courts, besides requesting punishment for those responsible,
you can also claim for damages.
ASSOCIATIONS OF CONSUMERS AND USERS
The purpose of associations of consumers and users is to protect the rights and interests of
users, including their information, training and education.
This type of association can refer to consumers and users in general or to specific sectors (banking, telecommunications, foodstuffs, etc.). These associations receive the full support of the public authorities
and can protect the interests of consumers and users with regard to enterprises
before the authorities and before the courts.
These associations take part in the preparation of legal texts governing consumerism and form part of the Consumer Arbitration Courts. It is highly recommendable to turn to these associations when you have a
problem or claim as a consumer. Joining these associations is cheap and it is a good way of keeping up to date and protecting your rights as a consumer.
Before purchasing a good or service, especially in the case of the latter, it is a good idea to ask for a detailed estimate stamped or signed by the enterprise. It is also a good idea to check the price and conditions of the product or service in various establishments to compare and choose the option that best
suits your requirements.
In the case of doubt (product specifications, form of use, price, methods of payment, warranties, etc.), ask the enterprise for information, preferably in writing. If you have difficulties with the language, inform the enterprise, which, although it is not legally obliged to attend you in any language other than
Spanish, will probably have employees who speak your language.
Check the labelling of the product. If it is incomplete, has been changed or if you do not understand
what it says, choose another product. If you take a good to be repaired or cleaned(vehicle, clothes, jewels, watches, etc.), ask for a receipt.
Do not throw away the advertising of the goods and services you purchase, since the said advertising
is binding for the enterprise. Before signing any contract, read it carefully. If you do not understand part of the contract, seek assistance or take the contract with you and study it carefully at home. Do not sign a contract with blank spaces under any circumstances and, once you have signed it, keep your copy safe.
It is best not to subscribe to contracts over the telephone, since you do not have a record of the terms and conditions of contract. If you do subscribe to a contract over the telephone, ask for the contract to be sent to you in writing.
Whenever you purchase a good or service, keep the corresponding receipt (or bill), as well as the warranty documents, where applicable. Check that the purchase receipt includes the details of the establishment, the product and the date of purchase.
Remember that the minimum term of warranty for consumer goods is two years, without prejudice to longer terms offered by the vendor. It is best to contract companies that have quality assurance certificates (ISO 9000), since clients’ complaints are given much greater consideration. Furthermore, it is also a good idea to contract companies that subscribe to consumer arbitration systems, since it will be easier to solve any problem that may arise.