Alternative Resolution of Consumer Disputes
A Law No. 144/2015 of September 8, transposed Directive 2013/EU, of the European Parliament and of the Council, of May 21, 2013, on the alternative resolution of consumer disputes.
The referred diploma establishes the legal framework of the mechanisms of Alternative Resolution of Consumer Disputes, creating the Consumer Arbitration Network in Portugal.
- What are consumer disputes?
These are disputes initiated by a consumer against a supplier of goods or service providers, which respect contractual obligations resulting from purchase and sale contracts or the provision of services, entered into between an established supplier of goods or service providers and consumers residing in Portugal and in the European Union (article 2 nº 1 of Law nº 144/2015.
- What is the RAL?
ADR are mechanisms available to consumers and companies to try to resolve consumer disputes out of court, in a quicker and less expensive way. The RAL covers the mediation, a conciliation it's at 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 may still appeal to the Arbitral Tribunal, through a simple and quick process.
- What are RAL entities?
They are independent entities, with specialized personnel, who impartially help the consumer and the company to reach an amicable solution. These entities are authorized to mediate, conciliate and arbitrate consumer disputes. These entities must be registered on the list provided for in article 17 of Law no. 144/2015.
- Who is responsible for managing the list of RAL entities?
A Directorate-General for Consumers is the competent national authority to organize the registration and dissemination of the list of ADR entities (see ANNEX I).
- How many RAL entities exist in Portugal?
In Portugal, there are ten Consumer Dispute Arbitration Centers. Since, seven 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 a center of national territorial scope (supplementary), the CNIACC - National Center for Information and Arbitration of Consumer Conflicts. There are also two specific competence centers specializing in the automotive sector and 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 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 resolve conflicts in that municipality.
- A company that carries out its activity throughout the national territory must indicate all the competent authorities.
- A vehicle repair shop, an insurance company or a travel agency should 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 that only sell products or provide services via the Internet, are obliged to inform consumers about the ADR entities available or those that they have voluntarily joined or to which they are bound by 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.
The obligations arising from Law No. 144/2015 apply, with the necessary adaptations, to all economic sectors not excluded by said law, including those in which there is already specific legislation that provides for the same obligation.
- Is there any imposition of membership in an RAL entity?
This law does not impose membership of any ADR entity, only establishing a duty to provide information on existing entities. However, there is the case of necessary arbitration 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 clara, understandable and proper to the type of good and service that is sold or provided (article 18º nº 2 of Law nº 144/2015). So:
- No website from suppliers of goods or service providers, if any.
- Us contracts of purchase and sale or provision of services between the supplier of goods or service provider and the consumer, when these assume a written form or constitute adhesion contracts.
- If there is no written form, the information must be provided on another durable medium, namely in a posted sign on the wall or on the sales counter or on the invoice delivered to the consumer.
- The law provides for some standardized model of information to be provided to consumers?
Not. However, attached is a proposal for the formulation of a sign (Appendix II).
- Who is responsible for monitoring compliance with the obligation to provide information to consumers?
Up to Food and Economic Security Authority and to sectoral regulatorsin the respective domains, monitoring compliance with these duties, investigating the respective administrative offense cases and deciding on those cases, including the application of fines and additional sanctions if necessary.
- What is the consequence of non-compliance with the duty of information to be provided to consumers?
Failure to comply with the duty to inform suppliers of goods or service providers constitutes administrative offense, punishable by:
- fine between €500 and €5000, when committed by a natural person.
- fine between €5000 and €25000, when committed by a legal person.
- When does this new regime apply?
Law nº 144/2015 of September 8, entered into force on September 23, 2015, with suppliers of goods or service providers having 6 months, counting from that date, to adapt to this new regime. This way, since March 23, 2016 companies must have this information available to their consumers.
WARNING: Consumer information on available ADR entities does not exempt suppliers of goods and service providers from providing consumers with the Complaint book, mandatory under the terms of Decree-Law No. 156/2005, of 15 September.