In Spain consumer protection is a role and duty of the 17 autonomous regions (Madrid, Cataluña, Andalusia, Basque country, etc.). These regional governments have created a complete set of consumer protection legislation that includes the means for consumers to place consumer complaints. The way a consumer may communicate the regional or local administration his/her disatisfaction with a product or service is through consumer complaint forms.
The consumer complaints forms
The “hojas de reclamaciones”, consumer complaint forms or claims sheets are official forms issued by the “Comunidades autónomas” (autonomous communities). Almost all commercial establishments open to the public and professionals must have them available to consumers and users. Their goal is to record the incidents or conflicts occurred in the acquisition of a product or in the provision of a service.
The “Hojas de reclamación” come in 3 or 4 colours depending on the region (usually 3). Each one of them is intended for a diiferent party: consumer protection administration, the store and the consumer. You as consumer are intended to hand the administration copy to them, not the store keeper.
Are the consumer complaint forms mandatory for all businesses?
In the most recent autonomic regulations, it is increasingly common to require the availability of complaint forms to all businesses. In Aragón, for example, all companies and professionals (individuals) that produce, provide, supply or ship goods, products, services or activities to consumers and users in their territory will be required to dispose of them.
It is also mandatory to advertise the existence of these forms. Take a look at this “official” advertisement by the Madrid region consumer protection authority:
Institutions excluded from this obligation
All public services and administrations are excluded from the obligation to accept consumer complaint forms (they have their own compaint systems). Other businesses and industries with specific consumer complaint schemes:
- Banks and insurance companies
- Air transport companies
- Health related issues
- Individual professionals subject to membership at “Colegios profesionales” (chambers of professionals) such as attorneys, notaries, etc.
Parts of a claim sheet
The Claims Sheet has the following sections:
- a section where each of the parties is identified (claimant consumer and merchant claimed),
- another section for the drafting by the complainant (the consumer) of the events and their claim (what you expect from the merchant),
- and of another space for the establishment claimed where it can make allegations.
Some more advice on consumer complaint forms
The claim forms must be delivered to consumers upon request and free of charge. A previos commercial relationship with the establishment claimed is not necessary when complaing about a health issue, for example. But if your claim has to do with a service or a good acquired, you will have to pay first, before filling the complaint.
It is not necessary that the form be delivered by the manager of the establishment or its owner. So this situation can not constitute an impediment to its delivery to us as users when requests them. This is the typical excuse, “the owner is not there, I can not hand you one”) .
Nor should they send us to obtain a complaint form to another addresses. Therefore, if at any time, we are denied this means of complaint, we can request the presence of the municipal police who will draw up a report before the refusal to provide us with access to this right.
Do have in mind that a complaint form is not mandatory to exert your right to complaint. The absecence of a complain form does not exclude the possibility of claiming through other means admitted in law that may leave a record (direct complaint to the administration, for example).