From 1 July this year, anyone wishing to make a formal complaint against an establishment or service will be able to do so via the internet as the traditional ‘Livro de Reclamações’ (Complaints Book) – which all public and private services and companies are compelled to have – will be available online.
A government spokesperson told Lusa News Agency this week that initially, the online Complaints Book will only be available for essential public services, but will later be expanded to all economic activities.
Deputy State Secretary for Trade, Paulo Ferreira, stressed that the government’s objective is to provide replies to complaints made electronically within a maximum of 15 days. Previously there was no set maximum response time.
“Next week we will unveil the online Complaints Book to mark World Consumer Rights Day. From 1 July, consumers will have yet another means via which they can exercise their rights and their citizens’ right to complain.
“The government is, in doing this, contributing towards those rights being exercised in a more simple, quick and accessible fashion”, he elaborated.
According to the Deputy State Secretary for Trade, to start with, the online process will only be implemented for essential public services such as water, electricity and gas, and later expanded to all sectors of the economy.
“The government’s objective is for this to be an increasingly-used vehicle (...) which will become a growing means via which the consumer can complain to market regulators and inspectors.”
Paulo Ferreira added the objective is also to speed up potential legal action.
The State Secretary further explained that the online Complaints Book “is part of a set of measures that the government is promoting to deepen and facilitate the exercise of consumer rights.”
“The government, through a decree signed last year between the State Departments of Justice and Economy, created a working party that aimed to come up with measures that would boost the network to exercise consumer rights. This group has already submitted a report to the government which is currently being presented to market regulators and inspection entities, and adjudication centres.”
State Secretary Ferreira said that before the end of the year, “there will be more new initiatives to strengthen means through which consumers can exercise their rights”, with the objective of achieving “faster, simpler and cheaper justice.”
“I would also like to point out that the paper version of the Complaints Book will continue to exist because it is an important element”, he stressed.
The online Complaints Book will be publicly unveiled on 15 March at the General Directorate of Consumer Affairs, in the presence of the Economy Minister.
According to economy news site, Economia Online, the number of complaints being penned on the pages of the country’s Complaints Books rose last year by seven percent in comparison to the year before.
During the course of 2016, 325,586 complaints were written in the books, the majority of which were addressed to national health and safety authority ASAE, according to data from the Economy Ministry.
The second largest number of complaints was directed at the Health Regulator.
Paulo Ferreira explained the rise as being due to the fact that consumers are more aware of their rights and of the importance of exercising them.
According to the Deputy State Secretary, the increase may also be related to a rise in economic activity in Portugal in 2016.
Complaints rose by eight percent from 2012 to 2013, by 13 percent from 2013 to 2014, and by 21 percent from 2014 to 2015, when 303,548 grumbles were logged.
In January 2008, it became compulsory for all establishments that supply goods or services to have an official Complaints Book.