Alternative Resolution of Consumer Disputes
ALTERNATIVE RESOLUTION OF CONSUMER DISPUTES
Law nº 144/2015 of September 8th, transposes Directive 2013/EU, of the European Parliament and of the Council, of May 21st, 2013, on the alternative resolution of consumer disputes.
The aforementioned The diploma establishes the legal framework for the Alternative Resolution of Consumer Disputes, creating the Consumer Arbitration Network in Portugal.
What are consumer disputes?
Are disputes initiated by a consumer against a supplier of goods or services, which concern contractual obligations resulting from contracts of purchase and sale or provision of services, entered into between a supplier of goods or established services provider and resident consumers in Portugal and in the European Union (article 2 nº 1 of Law nº 144/2015.
What is RAL?
ADR are mechanisms available to consumers and companies to try to resolve consumer disputes out of court, in a faster and cheaper way. ADR covers mediation, conciliation and arbitration. The ADR process begins with an attempt to reach an agreement via mediation or conciliation. However, if this agreement is not reached, the parties can still appeal to the Arbitral Tribunal, through a simple and quick process.
What are RAL entities?
They are independent entities, with specialized personnel, that impartially help the consumer and the company to reach a friendly solution. These entities are authorized to carry out the mediation, conciliation and arbitration of consumer disputes. These entities must be registered in the list provided for in article 17 of Law nº 144/2015.
Who is responsible for managing the list of ADR entities?
The Directorate-General for Consumers is the national authority responsible for organizing the registration and dissemination of the list of ADR entities.
How many ADR entities are there in Portugal?
In Portugal, there are ten Consumer Conflict Arbitration Centers. Seven of them are of generic competence and of regional scope, being located in Lisbon, Porto, Coimbra, Guimarães, Braga/Viana do Castelo, Algarve and Madeira. There is also the national territorial center (supplementary), the CNIACC - National Center for Information and Arbitration of Consumer Conflicts. There are also two specific competence centers specialized in the automotive sector and in the insurance sector.
How does a company know which RAL entity it should indicate to its consumers?
The place where the contract for the purchase and sale of goods or the provision of services is signed, which as a rule coincides with the place of establishment, determines the competent arbitration center.
A company that has only one or more commercial establishments in a given municipality, should only indicate the RAL entity that has competence to settle conflicts in that municipality.
A company that carries out its activity throughout the national territory , you must indicate all the competent authorities.
A vehicle repair shop, an insurance company or a travel agency, must indicate the specialized entities for these sectors.
Who is obliged to inform consumers about ADR entities?
All suppliers of goods and service providers, including those who only sell products or provide services via the Internet, are obliged to inform consumers about the available ADR entities or to which they have voluntarily joined or are bound by force of law.Only providers of Services of General Interest without economic consideration are excluded, such as social services provided by the state or on its behalf, health services and public services of complementary or higher education
Obligations arising from Law no. 144/2015 apply, mutatis mutandis, to all economic sectors not excluded by the aforementioned law, including those in which specific legislation already exists that provides for the same obligation.
Is there any requirement to join an RAL entity?
This law does not impose membership of any ADR entity, establishing only a duty of information on existing entities. However, there is the case of arbitration necessary for essential public services, such as electricity, gas, water and waste, electronic communications and postal services.
How should companies provide this information?
This information must be provided in a clear, understandable and appropriate manner for the type of good and service that is sold or provided (article 18 nº 2 of Law nº 144/2015). Thus:
On the website of suppliers of goods or service providers, if any.
In contracts of purchase and sale or provision of services between the supplier of goods or service provider and the consumer, when they take a written form or constitute adhesion contracts.
If there is no written form, the information must be provided on another durable medium, namely on a sign posted on the wall or on the sales counter or on the invoice delivered to the consumer.
No. However, attached is a proposal for the formulation of a sign.
Who is responsible for monitoring compliance with the information obligation to be provided to consumers?
It is up to the Food and Economic Security Authority and the sectoral regulators in the respective domains, to monitor compliance with these duties, instruct the respective administrative offense proceedings and decide on these processes, including the application of fines and accessory sanctions if necessary.
What is the consequence of not complying with the duty to provide information to consumers?
Failure to inform suppliers of goods or services constitutes an administrative offence, punishable by:
Fine between €500 and €5000, when committed by a natural person.
Fine between €5,000 and €25,000, when committed by a legal person.
When does this new regime apply?
Law nº 144/2015 of September 8, came into force on September 23, 2015, and suppliers of goods or service providers had 6 months, counted from that date, to adapt to this new regime. Thus, since March 23, 2016, companies must have this information available to their consumers.
ATTENTION: Consumer information on available ADR entities does not exempt suppliers of goods and service providers from providing consumers with the Complaints Book, which is mandatory under the terms of Decree-Law nº 156/2005, of 15 September..