Consumer rights in Spain are covered by Ley 23/2003, de 10 de julio, de Garantias en la Venta de Bienes de Consumo.
EU law allows for a full 2 year guarantee on most products purchased, and for buyers to revoke the sales contract without penalty within the first seven days without even having to give a reason. The rules require stores to give a refund within 30 days. After the first seven days, customers have the right to exchange or refund only if the item is defective or is not “fit for purpose” (e.g. not as described). An item may well not be accepted as “defective” if it becomes faulty after the first six months.
Having said that, Spanish law does not provide an automatic right to a refund, and it is likely to be an arduous process to insist on the application of EU law. The practical reality, therefore, is that although many shops will offer a full refund in line with EU rules, smaller ones may not. The most important point to bear in mind is that store policy must be clearly displayed so that it can be checked at the point of purchase. This will usually be in the sales point. Any refunds that are given will be by the same method as payment was made.
These rights do not apply to:
- products subject to price fluctuations that the seller cannot control
- products that have been personalized, e.g. jewellery
- products such as CDs, DVDs, or software which have been opened
If you feel that you have not been treated appropriately by an establishment providing goods or services, you are entitled by law to make a complaint using a complaints book. You will need to ask for “Hojas de Reclamaciones”, and the resistance you will meet will show immediately how seriously the system is taken! There is a legal requirement for all establishments to have a specific complaints book available, and the forms give consumers the means of making their complaint in the establishment itself. Depending on the nature of the complaint, filling out the form will initiate an investigation to determine whether any punishment is needed, and what it should be.
You need to be aware that you have the absolute right to one of these forms, and moreover, the business has the legal obligation to have a notice, clearly visible, that they are available. You should not accept any excuse for not handing one over on demand: shops refuse with a range of “reasons”, including that you haven’t bought anything, or the manager is not there and s/he’s the only one authorised to issue one, the forms are kept elsewhere or they ran out of them yesterday. There is no reason imaginable that is not a direct lie or an offence in its own right. If you meet with a blank refusal to supply the book, you can present a complaint in whichever manner is considered most appropriate (this can even include calling or going to the police), and should include in the complaint the fact that the hojas de reclamaciones were not available or were refused.
The hojas de reclamaciones will be in Spanish and English, and you can write your complaint in either. They will be numbered and in sets comprising a white sheet (for administrative purposes), a pink sheet (for the establishment you’re complaining about) and a green sheet (for you). The establishment must complete the identification details. When filling out the form, you should state your name, address, and ID number or passport, and fill in all the relevant fields in the form, stating clearly the reasons for your complaint, and the date on which you’re making it.
Once the form has been completed, it should be signed by the establishment, which can also fill in the relevant boxes with comments it considers appropriate. You then retain the green copy for your own records, the business keeps the pink copy to provide to the inspector, and you send the top white copy to the local consumer authorities within one month with any appropriate proofs or documents, especially receipts if the complaint concerns prices, which should be attached to it.
The consumer authority should acknowledge receipt of the hoja de reclamaciones within 15 working days of receipt. It will then notify the establishment of the complaint, and allow them 10 working days to reply. Proceedings will be initiated, if and as appropriate, and you will be notified of its decision.
In addition to this procedure, you can also make a separate complaint direct to a consumer office called an “Oficina Municipal de Información al Consumidor” (OMIC). There is a list HERE of the offices, just click on the relevant municipality. Most councils also have a form that can be completed and sent in. These need to be posted in or delivered because the original is required, so it’s difficult to do this online at present. Adeje’s can be downloaded HERE. (Please note that unlike the hojas, these council forms can currently only be completed in Spanish – if anyone is in real need I’m happy to help translate a text from English into Spanish for the form).
Consumers are protected both by Spanish and EU legislation. EU legislation on Sale of consumer goods and associated guarantees is summarised HERE. The Spanish law that covers consumer protection is the Ley de Defensa de Consumidores y Usuarios – HERE (this law is constantly being updated).