Consumption forces companies to have a maximum wait for telephone attention of three minutes

The Council of Ministers approved this Tuesday in the second round the Preliminary Bill on Customer Service Services, which expands the rights of consumers and improves the periods for consultation and resolution of incidents in their consumer relations. Failure to comply with the new regulations will be considered a minor offense (with fines of between 150 and 10,000 euros) and may be considered serious when, for example, they affect vulnerable consumers or are carried out repeatedly, in which case, the Penalties can be up to 100,000 euros. For offenses in the financial sector, the bodies in charge of applying the sanctioning regime will be the Bank of Spain, the National Securities Market Commission or the General Directorate of Insurance and Pension Funds, depending on the area.

Among other novelties, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs will limit the waiting time to be answered by telephone in general information, claim and after-sales services to three minutes. This time reduction will also benefit people affected by incidents in basic continuity services such as electricity, water or gas.

When the regulations come into force, which is now being processed as a bill in the Cortes Generales, companies in these sectors must report the reason for the problem and give an estimated time for the restoration of supply within a maximum period of two hours. In addition, people affected by power cuts may request through these services the compensation or discounts on invoices that are applicable, as occurs in the telecommunications or electricity sector.

For this and other procedures, companies that offer services of a basic nature and general interest will have to offer a free customer service channel 24 hours a day, every day of the year, when dealing with incidents related to the supply of the service, and they will not be able to divert calls to telephones that imply a cost.

energy operators

Energy operators must also report on energy saving and efficiency measures, as well as the possibilities of contracting energy from renewable sources.

Banks and financial services

For its part, financial services will ensure their customers the availability of face-to-face channels, whether permanent or intermittent, telephone or telematic, based on the principle of personalized service. Therefore, the age of the person, where they live or their level of digital skills will be taken into account to avoid situations of financial exclusion.

Customers served by people

Another important novelty of the future Customer Service Law is that users will be able to request to be served by a person with specialized training, regardless of whether the communication has been initiated through answering machines or robotic systems. The aim is for services to be inclusive and pay special attention to vulnerable people.

For this reason, the clientele may request, in case of dissatisfaction with the service received by automatic means, the transfer to a superior responsible person or to a specific quality department.

Hearing Impaired Service

In addition, in the case of people with hearing disabilities, the telephone channel will be accessible and must be complemented, at the person's choice, with an alternative system of instant written messaging via mobile or with a video interpreting system in sign language.

Reduced response time per claim

The Ministry of Consumer Affairs will also reduce the times in which companies, in general, are obliged to resolve a claim. Thus, it will go from the current 30 business days to just 15, and these terms may, in any case, be reduced by regional regulations.

Queries, complaints or claims may be submitted through the same channel through which the contractual relationship began, but also, at a minimum, by telematic means, ordinary mail, telephone and in person at the establishments open to the public from which the queries are made. companies have (franchises included, with the exception of telecommunications companies, which is subject to the will of the company). In addition, the filing of a claim will prevent the suspension of the service when the cause of the claim and the suspension coincide.

New customer definition

The norm also regulates the concept of clientele. Thus, any person who has a contractual relationship with a company when making a query or claim and who has been registered in the provision of a service without their consent will be considered a client. Also included as customers are those who continue to receive bills and payment demands for a service for which they have requested cancellation or have not contracted.

Affected companies

The future Customer Service Law affects all public and private companies that, regardless of their size, provide water and energy supply and distribution services; passenger transport by air, rail, sea or waterway, bus or coach; postal services; conditional access paid audiovisual communication services; electronic and telephone communications, as well as financial services. Likewise, it will be applicable to large companies (more than 250 workers) regardless of the sector.

All of them must implement an evaluation system to verify that the requirements of the standard are met. This system will be audited by external companies accredited by the National Accreditation Entity.

Fines for non-compliance

In accordance with current consumer regulations, non-compliance with the provisions of the regulation will be considered a minor offense (with fines of between 150 and 10,000 euros) and may be considered serious when, for example, they affect vulnerable consumers or take carried out repeatedly, in which case, the penalties can amount to up to 100,000 euros. For offenses in the financial sector, the bodies in charge of applying the sanctioning regime will be the Bank of Spain, the National Securities Market Commission or the General Directorate of Insurance and Pension Funds, depending on the area.

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