Thursday, December 2

Not like that, Garzón

The Council of Ministers approved the draft bill on customer service on Tuesday. A text that Ana Mato forgot in a drawer almost a decade ago and that the Ministry of Consumption has rescued to remove some cobwebs and try to dress him clean. Instead of making a standard tailored to the needs of consumers, as their associations have been claiming for decades, Alberto Garzón’s team has decided to use a poorly designed and old-fashioned pattern to achieve what seemed impossible: make it even worse.

Garzón has not appeared to present the draft at the press conference after the Council of Ministers. The Government spokesperson and Minister of Territorial Policy, Isabel Rodríguez, has said that with this law “you even have the right to be attended by a natural person and not by a robot, through the answering machines.” You even have the right. As if the norm included a long list of new rights and among them it had achieved the feat of imposing something as basic as being attended by a human being. The thing is that this right already exists in consumer protection legislation for seven years.

What the minister has not told either is that the text does not state how long it may take from the time communication is established until that physical and non-robotic person attends to you. Because it does not intend to prohibit automation, but only that the answering machines are “the exclusive means of attention”.

Lower the bar even further

Both the customer service bill that reached Congress in the last year of Zapatero’s government – which was never approved – and the bill that did not become more than that of the first Rajoy Executive sought to establish a maximum wait of one minute in 90% of calls. But Garzón – and all the ministers after him – has decided to lower that bar that was never set, leaving it up to the companies how eternal they want to go through successive menus of computerized options in which consumers are asked who they are and what he wants, so that in the end, hopefully, a human asks him who he is and what he wants.

“This law deepens in that attention that the client has to receive in a personalized way”, has also affirmed the spokesman of the Government. Custom? In reality, the only advances that it raises in this attention are that companies must provide proof of both the presentation and the content of the claim, that if the user is not satisfied with the treatment he is receiving by a telemarketer, he will have the right to that he transfers the call to his immediate superior and that if he presents a claim to the competent administration, they will not be able to continue demanding the payment of an alleged debt until there is an unfavorable resolution.

But beyond what little it adds, the worst is what remains. The Ministry of Consumer Affairs has decided that this rule will eliminate the obligation established in the general law for the defense of consumers, by which all companies must provide both a telephone, an email address and another postal address to attend to claims of Your clients.

The only way of customer service that the future law that will regulate these services would require is the same as the one you used when you signed up. If you did it over the phone, companies wouldn’t have to provide you with a written mechanism. And if you signed the contract convinced by the sales representatives of a stand in a large area, in theory that stand should remain there for life as the only way to attend to your claims. The exception would be the so-called companies that provide basic services of general interest —water, gas, electricity, telecommunications, health, transport, postal, sanitation, waste and financial companies—, which would continue to be obliged to provide a telephone, free of charge, because in this way It is established by another section of the consumer defense law that would not be repealed with the promulgation of this new rule.

In addition, Garzón has renounced to propose a law that establishes a minimum framework of obligations in the attention to consumers for any company or professional. It will affect only basic services of general interest – excluding health, sanitation and waste – and companies that have at least 250 employees or an annual turnover of 50 million euros.

To top it all, the law will prevail as established by any sectoral norm, even if it is no more than a ministerial order or a simple circular. It will be enough that another ministry of this government or of those that arrive in the future wants to further reduce the obligations of certain companies in the attention to consumers.

One month to answer

But the icing on this stale cake is the deadline for responding to complaints. Nothing less than a month. It does not matter if the consumer complains about an inflated bill, that the product or service does not meet the requirements established in the offer, that he is reporting a claim in his vehicle or his home to the insurance or that a breakdown has left him without electricity . The term triples the ten days that some regional regulations have established since the end of the 80s to answer the complaint forms. Quite a gift for the companies that will be subject to this regulation.

Developing standards that are practically empty of content to be able to affirm afterwards that you have enacted laws is as useful as saying that you have seen in two days the 50 episodes of the five seasons of The Good Fight. If you do that, you have not heard anything. You have not heard what the majority of the plot is about or that people do not need a minister who exhibits legislative hypertrophy, but who pushes rules that really improve their lives. And this unless your goal is only to be useful to yourself and you believe that people will value quantity over quality. But I do not think that the Minister of Consumption is of that suit.

The problem is not that Garzón has the complex of being behind his predecessors in the approval of regulations related to consumption and needs to take one out at full speed to appear. In fact, it has driven more – and some particularly powerful – than all the ministers with the powers in the matter of the last fifteen years put together. From Elena Salgado to Magdalena Valerio, passing through Bernat Soria, Trinidad Jiménez, Leire Pajín, Ana Mato, Alfonso Alonso, Dolors Montserrat and Carmen Montón. Something that shows how little or nothing their predecessors legislated in a matter as neglected as consumer protection.

No compensation

In reality, the problem is that with this draft bill, the minister has shown an enormous ignorance of the real needs of consumers and an absolute lack of sensitivity to the demands he has received. After three meetings with his team and repeated written communications, practically nothing of what FACUA has transmitted to him appears in the text. The right of consumers to be compensated was only included if the companies affected by the future rule did not respond to the claims in time. It appeared in the version of the draft that the Ministry of Consumption sent in September to the consumer associations that it considers representative, but without specifying the amount, referring everything to a future regulatory development – my organization claims at least 50 euros, but before deadlines of response of 10, 5 or one day, depending on the companies and disputes claimed. However, in the text approved by the Council of Ministers, these possible compensations have disappeared.

It would be crazy if Garzón had decided that the most important law of his time at the head of a ministry – in fact, perhaps his only rule with the rank of law – does not contribute practically anything, believing that no one notices it anyway and can sneak it in as a great advance. in consumer protection. Possibly, the minister is on other things and has not stopped to analyze in depth what that authentic mess that has already passed its first round by the Council of Ministers really offers. Perhaps it is time for you to start doing it. Because in this way consumers are not defended from the abuses of the market.

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