Complaining in Spain need not be in vain

BRITISH High Street stores are fobbing off customers who have legitimate complaints and denying them their right to have faulty goods fixed, a study by the consumer champions Which? found.

‘The Sale of Goods Act 1979’ gives consumers limited protection for up to six years after purchase – regardless of manufacturer warranties.

It did make me laugh as here in Spain when something is faulty it’s an absolute nightmare to sort out.

After 15 days the store basically doesn’t want to know and passes you onto the manufacturer or gives you the contact number for the service centre – and it’s up to you to resolve.

You also have to have all the original packaging that the product came in – which is OK if its a mobile phone, but somewhat more difficult if its a large item such as a plasma screen.

The Which? study concluded that store staff, in some cases needed to be retrained. In Spain they need to be trained in customer service never mind re-trained… they never had any in the first place.

Customers appear to be a nuisance or inconvenience in most cases here – walk into a shop and you will find the glamorous young girl chatting on her mobile. She will not interrupt her conversation to assist you but carry on chatting – even though it’s obvious that it’s a personal call.

It is all too easy for them to fob us ‘foreigners’ off but we do have rights. If you are getting exceptionally bad service then ask for the ‘Libro/Hojas de Reclamaciones’ or Consumer Complaint forms.

Every establishment has to have them by law including restaurants, theme parks etc. It isn’t a magic wand but often works like one.

The reason being is that it is extra work for the manager – the complaint has to be officially submitted to the authorities and if they get a number of complaints then the Consumer office starts to nose around their business. The pages come in triplicate – top white copy is for the complaints office, middle green copy for you the consumer and the pink bottom copy which remains in the book.

If you believe you have a complaint then politely ask for the ‘Hojas de Reclamaciones’. If they refuse to produce it you should call the local police…. first tell the manager that you are about to do so and in most cases he will change his mind.

If you do fill out the forms – preferably in Spanish but you can use English keep it simple and straight forward.   Ensure that you fill out your name, address and sign the form. You take the top two pages – white and green copies and leave the pink one in the book.

You now take the WHITE copy, together with copies of receipts, guarantee and other relevant documents to the local OMIC office – if you do not know where yours ask at the town hall. OMIC is similar to the Citizens Advice Bureau – it is a free service whereby they “defend and protect” the rights of the consumer and provide mediation between you and the merchant.

If you do not want to go down the complaints route formally then ask them for advice or to intervene on your behalf. I have used them and they are very good and efficient … don’t be fobbed off – if everyone takes the attitude that they can’t be bothered to complain then nothing will ever be done about bad and shoddy service.

By Irena Bodnarec, Costa Blanca

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