Sooner or later, everyone will encounter a situation that breaches their rights. When this happens, DECO advises all consumers to file a complaint, which must always be made in writing, so that you can keep the proof of it.
Physical and online – “Livro de Reclamações”
In Portugal, the main means of complaint in case of violation of consumer rights is the “Livro de Reclamações”, which in English means “complaint’s book” and, according to DECO, this is the best way to complain regarding consumer's rights.
"All companies that provide a public service must have a complaints book available on their premises, where consumers can fill out their complaint when they face a less comfortable situation that directly affects their rights," said Vânia Traguedo, DECO's legal advisor.
In addition, the consumer can always file their complaint in the online complaint’s book, without leaving their home, which, according to consumers feedback, seems to bring a lot of benefits.
“It is necessary to remember that when we file a complaint at the exact moment that our rights have just been infringed, we may have more anxiety, less clarity of mind and possibly less articulated writing”, she highlighted.
However, according to DECO, “the obligation to conduct the process is the same whether in person or online. That is, if there is a complaint in the complaint’s book, the entity must respond to the consumer within 15 days, whether the complaint is made in the physical complaints book, or online, and forward the complaint over to the regulator. What we found is that the online complaints book has the advantage of attaching documents that support the complaint”, Vânia Traguedo pointed out.
Furthermore, there are reports from consumers claiming that the use of the online complaints book has been more efficient; however, DECO highlighted that the procedural protocol is the same.
What must a complaint contain?
Primarily, complaints should, whenever possible, be written in the official language of the country where the company is based, which is Portuguese, but if this is not possible, the entities have to meet the consumer's needs and, therefore, consumers can file the complaint in English or in other mother tongue. However, it must be legible so that the recipient can understand what is written on it.
When the complaint is filled by the consumer, “it must be as complete as possible, it must tell the story, it must contain all the facts and circumstantial elements that help to show that some rights have been breached. The more succinct the better - It’s unnecessary to use adjectives. On the contrary, you must present all the facts”, Tânia explained.
In addition, "if the consumer can say directly in the complaint what his request is, that’s great, but this first request is not binding, because this will depend on the agreement between the parties (company and consumer), then you can request it later,” she told The Portugal News.
Legally, depending on the various scenarios, the consumer may have a specific deadline to file a complaint, so DECO recommends complaining as soon as possible after the situation occurs.
What penalties can the entity suffer in a claim?
The entity must always forward the complaint to its regulator; however, there are cases in which entities do not comply with this. However, the consumer can always complain directly to the regulatory authorities or forward to the regulator a copy of the complaint made in the complaints book to make sure that the regulator receives it.
After investigating the situation described in the complaint, the regulator may agree that there was a violation of consumer rights and can convict the entity to the payment of a fine. A complaint not only forces the entity to adopt a specific conduct and meet the consumer's expectations, but it can make the entity pay a fine.
Do you need help?
Currently, as a consumer protection association, DECO has a network of contacts that can be useful to consumers. “We have developed many direct contacts with the companies that receive most complaints and we always try our best to deal with these entities. The consumer ends up being represented by the association and can have a more technical and legal defence or argument based on all the legislation that protects the consumer. In addition, when it is not possible to reach an agreement with the company, we can also inform and assist consumers in accessing alternative means, such as national arbitration courts,” said the legal advisor.
Please, remember that if you file a complaint in the physical version of the Complaints Book, always keep a copy of the complaint, as well as online - where you will receive an email with the content of the complaint that you also must keep.