Does the new Customer Services Draft Law affect you? We analyse it
Approved by the Council of Ministers on 16 November 2021, the Customer Services Draft Law aims to guarantee the basic rights of consumers and establish minimum quality parameters to be met by the customer services of companies in the water, gas and electricity supply services, passenger transport services, postal services, conditional access audiovisual media and electronic communications services sectors.
Once this project is finally drafted, the Government will submit it to Parliament for approval and once approved, it will be published in the Official State Gazette (BOE), where the date of entry into force will be established, which is not yet known.
Obligation to provide personalised telephone support
The companies affected by this Draft Law must have an effective service to provide information, attend to and resolve possible customer complaints and claims. In particular, they must offer their consumers a more personalised, free, efficient, accessible, non-discriminatory, inclusive and assessable service.
In this regard, before the user is bound by a contract or commercial offer, the company shall provide clear and comprehensible information on customer service.
If the consumer requests it, the company must guarantee personalised attention, i.e. that the consumer is attended by an operator who answers in real time. In view of the above, the use of answering machines as an exclusive means of customer service is prohibited.
On the other hand, companies must allow queries or complaints to be submitted through the same channel through which the contractual relationship was initiated and the reply to the query must be reasoned and must be in writing or on another durable medium.
Other basic points of the Customer Services Draft Law
- Referring consumers’ calls to a telephone number that entails additional costs for consumers is prohibited.
- Companies shall facilitate the use of customer services for people with disabilities. In this regard, services shall be designed in a way that respects the principles of universal accessibility, equal treatment and non-discrimination.
- Companies shall provide the consumer with proof of the enquiry or complaint on a durable medium.
- The opening hours of the service will be adjusted to the company’s business hours and, for those companies that provide basic services on a continuous basis, it will be available 24 hours a day, every day of the year.
- Under no circumstances may businesses take advantage of an enquiry or complaint to offer goods or services to the consumer, unless they are directly and clearly related to the resolution of the enquiry and involve an improvement for the customer (e.g. in price or service conditions).
- Consultations or complaints shall be resolved as soon as possible and, in any case, within a maximum period of one month from their submission.
- Companies should implement a system to assess the level of customer service quality, as well as carry out annual audits to check the reliability and accuracy of service quality.
- In the event of non-compliance with the provisions of this new regulation, the sanctioning regime of the General Law for the Defence of Consumers and Users will be applied, which distinguishes between minor, serious and very serious infringements.
Minor infringements may be sanctioned with fines of up to 3,005.06 euros; serious infringements, between 3,005.07 euros and 15,025.30 euros, which may be exceeded by up to five times the value of the goods or services which are the object of the infringement; and very serious infringements, between 15,025.31 euros and 601,012.10 euros, which may be exceeded by up to five times the value of the goods or services which are the object of the infringement.
On the other hand, and in the case of infringements of equal treatment and non-discrimination and non-compliance with accessibility requirements for persons with disabilities, these will be sanctioned in accordance with the provisions of the General Law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and their Social Inclusion.
Likewise, data protection infringements will be sanctioned in accordance with the provisions of the General Data Protection Regulation and the Organic Law on the Protection of Personal Data and Guarantee of Digital Rights.
Which companies will be affected by the Customer Services Draft Law?
The Draft Law will affect companies that form part of the sectors of activity that provide goods and services of a basic nature of general interest in Spanish territory, i.e. providers of goods and services related to water and energy, transport, postal services, telephone services, electronic communications services, financial services and services provided through audiovisual media with conditional access for a fee.
It will also apply to companies that sell goods and provide services and have more than 250 employees or an annual turnover of more than EUR 50 million or a balance sheet total of more than EUR 43 million.
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