The New Spanish Consumer Law 2014
Being part of the EU has helped consumers in Spain as a lot of legislation is EU-wide, especially regarding online purchases. Other changes are due to national practice and we particularly welcome the changes applied to curtailing the hours cold callers can ring you.
Penalty charges for changing company have long been a consumer headache. These charges were enforced even if your contract just had a matter or weeks or even days to run until expiry. Some companies even increased the penalty charge the longer you’d had a contract with them!
With the new law all penalty charges must be proportional to the number of days left on your contract. Sales tax (IVA) cannot be added to this charge, so remember to check your final bill.
We still expect that telecoms companies will have some other tricks up their sleeves, if you have any issues take a look at our post “Problems with your Phone Company in Spain“.
In the last few years utilities and telecoms companies by default signed customers up for online-only billing with every new contract – if you wanted a paper bill you had to opt-in and pay a charge for every bill sent to your home.
Although presented as an environment-friendly initiative, internet-only billing was a problem for people who had no internet access and had no intention of getting it, such as Spanish pensioners.
With the introduction of the new law customers will not be charged for bills printed and posted and internet billing will be an opt-in procedure.
Visitors to an online site must be able to clearly see accepted payment methods and any restrictions, or charges, before starting the buying process. Theoretically this means an end to reaching the checkout and suddenly finding an extra cost. At the same time websites should end the practice of extras being automatically included and users having to opt-out.
Although this measure seems to be a good idea, many websites still haven’t got around to the idea that with clearer pricing they’ll get more customers and less people abandoning their “shopping cart”. The problem lies in the interpretation of the term “clearly indicate” – but even Ryanair has moved away from their confusing old website.
Online Cooling-Off Period
When you buy any item online you’ll now have 14 days to return it, rather than 7, without having to give a reason – in other words simply because you’ve changed your mind.
You’ll have to check each website’s returns policy regarding any charges. Many chain stores allow you to return to a local store free of charge and most online shoe vendors arrange for free returns via their courier service.
Remember that some items are not covered such as small electrical items for personal care or personalised items.
Cold callers must identify the company they represent from the outset and the reason for calling. Calls cannot be made between 21:00 and 9:00 or at any time at weekends and public holidays.
Additionally telecoms companies must inform potential clients clearly about the penalty clause (cost and duration).