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In Spain, consumer protection is quite developped since the massive poisoning from adulterated rape-seed oil in the early 1980s. This public health situation led into the creation of a network of public local advice centers, similar to the citizens advice consumer services in the UK. These are called OMICs, an abreviation for “Oficina Municipal de Información al Consumidor” and offer free consumer guidance (if you can find English-speaking civil servants in one of them).
The OMICs are public consumer organizations dependent on the Town Councils. Their main functions are information, guidance and assistance to consumers and users in terms of consumer issues at the local level and to resolve, through friendly means and voluntarily, any conflicts that may arise between employers and consumers of its term (consumer mediation).
Functions of the OMIC
The Spanish OMICs are managed by public officials, experts in consumer affairs that protect consumers and users in their municipality in different ways:
They offer information, help and guidance to consumers,
They process the claims that we present directly to consumers or consumer associations,
They promote the education and training of consumers locally
They collaborate with other public and private entities, also dedicated to the protection of consumers,
Claims are submitted to the Consumer Arbitration Board for those claims in which a mediating agreement has not been reached.
Issues addressed by the OMICs
The OMICs understand all matters related to the field of consumer protection. Basically:
Goods (cars, electrical appliances, clothing, furniture, toys, for example);
Supplies (water, electricity, gas, telecoms, Internet);
Service (insurance, banks, transport, travel, car repair services, etc.).
Who can use this service?
Consumers and end users according to the definition given by the Spanish Law (natural or legal persons who buy or use as final recipients, goods, products, services, activities or functions, whatever the public or private, individual or collective nature of those who produce, facilitate, supply or issue) can benefit for free from the services of an OMIC.
Bear in mind that those whom, without constituting themselves as final recipients, buy, store, use or consume goods or services in order to integrate them into production, transformation, marketing or third-party rendering processes, are not granted the status of final consumers in Spain. For example, a shopkeeper who buys merchandise for sale to third parties, or a freelancer who sells services to companies.
How to file a complaint before your local OMIC
Any consumer wishing to complain against a company must fill out an official form of the OMIC (in person or through the Virtual OMIC, if your municipality offers this service) detailing their data, those of the trade being claimed, a description of their insatisfaction, their claim and the probatory documentation on which it relies to justify its claim.
In addition, you must provide at least the following documentation:
Personal information, including name, surname, address, telephone, mail and fax number of the consumer, among others.
Data of the business or professional subject of the claim (commercial name, company name, address and telephone number must be indicated).
Documentation related to the case. Tickets, invoices, budgets, contractual documents, receipts and even advertising information must be provided.
Some regional administrations like Navarre in the North of Spain, provide that in addition to publicly owned OMICs there may be “those that depend on a consumer association”.
By Law, the Consumer Information Offices can not carry out any type of advertising of products or services.
How to find your nearest OMIC
The Instituto Nacional del Consumo (INC), estate body in charge of consumer protection, has a list of OMIC by region. Check it here the list of OMIC. But if you want a rapid solution to your problems I suggest you Google “OMIC + your city” and you will get a rapid place and telephone to contact.
Remember about the “English”. Should you need assistance, Consumoteca, is at your disposal. Check our suscription plans. They are cheap and will avoid you a lot of hassle when filing a complaint in Spain.