Every citizen, customer or consumer who believes that a company or professional whose services they hired has infringed their rights may:
- Contact the customer service department of the particular company or professional, if any, to explain the situation, and
- If an amicable agreement cannot be reached or if the solution offered by the company or professional is not satisfactory, can then submit a formal complaint via an Official Complaints Form that should be made available by the business to it’s customers. If the business does not make the Official Complaints Form available, then a written complaint with a description of the events that led to the complaint as well as the customer’s details and the solution that they wish to obtain may be signed and presented.
Together with the Official Complaints Form, the customer should add any relevant documentation that will help to clarify the situation (receipts, invoices, contracts, proposals, photos). The Complaint may then be submitted to any of the following: Servicios Territoriales de Comercio y Consumo de la Comunidad Autónoma, Oficina Municipal de Información al Consumidor or to the Asociaciones de Consumidores.
Companies/professionals and consumers alike may voluntarily agree to Consumer Arbitration which is a non-judicial process that will conclude with a decision that is binding on all of the parties. There are companies that have decided voluntarily to have any complaints that they have been unable to resolve directly by their consumer complaints department sent to a professional arbitration panel. If the company and customer agree, they can have the arbitration panel review the complain and make a binding decision.
Should either the company or professional not agree to said arbitration, or if the mediation and management of the complain by the Consumers Association does not satisfy the customer, there remains the option of judicial proceedings.
The Rules of Civil Procedures (Ley de Enjuiciamiento Civil ) establishes that for those complaints where the matter under dispute involves an amount of money less than 2,000 €, the applicant can litigate without the assistance of a lawyer or procurador. That is to say that, if the consumer has not obtained a satisfactory response either via the customer services department of the company or professional that the complaint is being made to or indeed via the complaint made to the relevant Consumer Association body, then the customer may take the matter to the Court of 1st Instance appurtenant to where the business is located. thereupon it will be the Judge’s decision that will definitively decide the dispute.
It is worth highlighting that in those cases where the matter under dispute is of low value, that it is unnecessary to pay the costs of the other party where the claim is rejected by the Court.
It can therefore be recommended to make use of this option in those cases where earlier efforts via the consumer association and customer services department of the relevant business do not resolve the matter adequately (return of the amount paid for the unsuitable goods or services, the cost of repair of the product purchased, invoices improperly billed). If the consumer chooses to take the matter to court, they will not face an order for costs if they fail - an important point when considering taking legal action in Spain.
It is of course advisable to seek legal advice when drafting the complaint, with the consumer able to defend and represent themselves in court, without additional costs. Of course, this would require a high level of Spanish.