Consumer Protection in Spain

What happens when you buy something and it doesn't work? Or which is dangerous? Or which works for a short time and then breaks? Or which is just a million miles from what was described when you bought it? Or when someone supplies you with a shoddy service?

Spain has a number of ways of helping you.

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This guide covers…

This guide is to consumer protection in Spain. It covers the rights of consumers when dealing with businesses based in Spain. Some of these rights arise under the general law and some arise under specific consumer protection laws.

It describes, in particular, how to deal with consumer claims in the area of Andalusia/Andalucía – which contains the Costa del Sol. See a map here. Please note that certain aspects of the law in Spain vary from one “autonomous community” (comunidad autónomalightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject to another.

This guide does not cover problems arising when a private individual supplies goods or services to another private individual. Nor does it apply to good or services supplied by one business to another. In each of those cases the law is very different.

For more information, see our guides to Contract Law in SpainDefective Products in SpainDisputes & Court Cases in Spain and The Legal System in Spain.

Introduction

Most countries have laws intended to protect the consumer. Spain is no exception. The need for consumer protection arises because of the imbalance between the power of the trader and the power of the consumer. The contract is usually prepared by the trader. There is little disclosure of background information and so little possibility of effective “due diligence”. The value of the goods or services is often quite low, making recourse to the courts an ineffective remedy.

Consumer protection is regulated in Spain by the Law 1/2007.

This law is very similar to the equivalent laws in other European countries.

Video guide to consumer protection in Spain

You can get a quick overview of consumer laws in Spain by watching this video interview (below) with Spanish lawyer Antonio Manzanares. Learn more by scrolling down and reading the detailed guide he has written with us.

What consumer protection rights are there in Spain?

When a European consumer has a problem with the purchase or the use of goods or a service provided, they can file a complaint, as they have the right to do so in order to settle the situation satisfactorily. For this purpose they can go to any Association for the Protection/Defence of Consumers and Users in the countries which are members of the European Union. In practical terms, you are more likely to achieve a satisfactory outcome if you apply to the Association for the Protection/Defence of Consumers and Users for the area in Spain where the complaint arose.

The consumer can also make his complaint known by means of a complaint book, a registered letter, stamped complaint form or fax to the Company or shop, following the process established by them to deal with queries and complaints. Very often companies have a contact telephone number, fax or e-mail. In your letter you must explain what has happened and what you need from them.

To be able to present a complaint you need to have the receipt of the goods purchased or a signed contract for the service arranged.

If the Company does not reply or they do so unsatisfactorily, you must contact the Association for the Protection/Defence of Consumers and Users. They will assist you and offer their support in resolving the matter.

The European Consumers’ association in Spain is a public body to help the consumers from any country that is a member of the European Union, and who may need assistance or information about the purchase of goods or the use of a service in a country which is different from their own.

Applicable law

The European policy concerning consumer protection has made a lot of progress since the first program of information and protection to the consumers back in 1975. Nowadays this is regulated in Spain by Law 1/2007 on Consumers’ and Users’ rights.

They have taken many measures to protect the interests of the consumers in fields such as:

  • Loyal business practice
  • False advertising
  • Price indicators
  • Abusive contract clauses
  • Online sales and door-to-door sales
  • Timeshare and combined holidays
  • Rights of travellers

Guarantees

Guarantees of products are regulated by articles 114 onward of Law 1/2007. The legislation covers all products and also contracts for the supply of products which have not yet been made or built.

A claim based on a guarantee must be made to the business premises where you bought the products. You can only claim something against the manufacturer if it is not possible to present a claim against the seller: for example, when the business premises have closed down or the business has been declared bankrupt.

The guarantee can be called upon when the product is faulty or – even if it is in perfect condition – if it does not meet your needs: that is to say, if you are (for good reason) not happy with your purchase.

In order to make a claim on the basis that it does not meet your needs it is necessary to show that, when the purchase was made, you had explained to the seller the characteristics you needed and for the seller to have given you a product that did not meet those needs.

If you chose the product without the assistance of any staff, you cannot call upon the guarantee if you are not happy with what you purchased if, at the time of the purchase, you knew or could have known that the product did not meet your needs.

So, for example, if you walked into a shop and, without receiving advice from staff, bought a set of scales that went up to 100 kg (as stated on the packaging) but it turned out you needed scales that went up to 150 kg, that does not fall under this guarantee.

Length of guarantee

According to the legislation, the guarantee on new goods covers a period of two years. In the case of second hand goods, it can be limited to one year. Any time during which the goods in question are being repaired does not count as part of this period, nor does the time that they take to replace them.

In any case, you have a maximum of three years to call upon the guarantee.

If some faults appear or if you have a problem with the purchase during the first six months, it is legally presumed that the fault has its origin “at source”: that the fault was present when you bought the item. After this period, if the establishment does not cooperate and honour the guarantee, it is you who has to prove that the fault was present when you bought the goods.

Proof

The guarantee period starts from the date the product was delivered, which is meant to be the same as the date on the receipt or invoice. Therefore, the law establishes that in order for the guarantee to be applicable you just need to provide the receipt for the purchase or the invoice.

The business premises will not give you a stamped guarantee and you do not need to have one to make use of your rights.

Bear in mind that, under the tax laws, business premises are obliged to issue an invoice and the consumer has the right to request an invoice at the time of the purchase of goods or when services are provided.

In general, if you misplace the receipt for your purchase the difficulty lies in proving that you purchased from the shop concerned. You may, for example, be able to prove this by providing proof of a bank or credit card payment. You just need to ask your bank or credit card company to issue a statement. If the purchased was financed, this will be easier; just provide the finance agreement paperwork.

As to keeping the original packaging, the law does not establish anything in this respect. That is to say, it is not necessary in order to make use of the guarantee. We have to understand that it will be complicated to keep this for two years. The indication given by the business that you should keep the original packaging is in case you need to change the goods soon after the purchase. It is not applicable in the case of possible future repairs during the term of the guarantee, which that can be many months or even years after the date of the purchase.

Limitation of the guarantee

At first you have the right to choose either a repair or substitution of goods. However, the trader may choose the less onerous option as long as the result is satisfactory for you. In the case of repairing the goods, the guarantee must cover the repair of every manufacturing defect plus labour, transport, reports and materials.

If, after the repair, a new defect appears, you may choose:

  • To replace the product (except when this option would prove disproportionate)
  • To seek a reduction of the price
  • To seek cancellation of the contract – and so a refund

All this must be carried out by the business within a reasonable period and without any problems for you.

You have to take into account that any of the options chosen must be reasonable from an economic point of view, taking into account the scope of the defect and the repairing costs; this is intended to avoid the unjust enrichment of the client.

Damages – general compensation – can also be claimed as long as the cause and effect relationship is proved between the defect in the goods and the damage caused and provided that those damages can be quantified.

If the cancellation of the contract is accepted, the company must make any refund within 14 days after the request.

The guarantee is not going to be applicable if the damage is due to misuse by the consumer.

Apart from the legal guarantee referred to above, the establishment may provide you with a so-called “commercial guarantee”. This guarantee, where it exists, must be in writing and state the following details: the goods covered by the guarantee; the name and address of the guarantor; that the guarantee doesn’ t affect the consumer legal rights; the consumer rights as holder of the guarantee; the period of the guarantee; its territorial scope and, finally, the complaint process for the consumer.

Returning goods in Spain

Outside the guarantee regulations, you would only be entitled to get a refund in two cases:

  1. If the goods are in perfect condition and you bought them online or on Home Shopping Network, you have 14 days for returns after the delivery of the goods. The consumer will only be responsible for the cost of returning the goods if he or she had been informed of that when the purchase was made. Once the goods have been returned you should get your money back within 14 days.
  2. If you bought the goods in an establishment and the shop includes this benefit in its clients policy. Please check the return conditions with your establishment. Return periods and other conditions are normally described briefly in the receipt.

Product safety in Spain

Spanish regulations are very strict about product safety. A product cannot be sold without having passed through the corresponding safety controls. This is especially important in the case of imported products.

A product is considered safe when it meets the foreseeable conditions of normal use, given its characteristics, its composition and packaging, its labelling, its effect on other products and the categories of the users to whom it is intended (e.g. children).It must not present risk or the risk must be minimal.

New ways of buying products in Spain

Compared with traditional trade conducted through a shop or sales at home there are many advantages of purchases made through new channels such as the internet, telesales or telemarketing and by “distance sales” in general.

These new formulas offer comfort and save time. They give access to interesting offers or exclusive products, some from foreign countries or impossible to obtain otherwise.

However, these kinds of purchases also have issues to consider: the reliability of the seller, the security of payments, the facility to enforce your rights derived from the purchase, etc.

However, you do have certain legal rights. This information is only applicable to purchases of new products (not second-hand products) made by a final consumer from a company with a Spanish address or permanently established in Spain.

If you buy from foreign companies it is advisable to ensure their existence and reliability beforehand. In particular, if the company fails to meet its legal obligations a claim in respect of your rights becomes very difficult or virtually impossible if the company is not established in Spain. In these cases, you may in some cases have some comeback against the entity involved in the sale – Amazon, PayPal, your credit card company etc. This is outside the scope of this guide.

The duty of information

Companies offering products or services through a web must be properly identified on their website with a name or a company name, TAX/VAT number, address and other contact details. In addition, and prior to the purchase, all the details related to the article being bought must be provided to the consumer: price, method of payment, delivery period, withdrawal right, period of validity of the offer/s etc. This information must be clear and understandable and should be sent to the customer on paper (including by email) if requested.

Protection and privacy of personal data

The privacy policy of the company relating to your data must be published on the web. In any case, try to provide only the personal data required for the purchase and do not authorise any use of your data for disposal to third parties or for any unwanted advertising purposes.

After the purchase you will be able to assert your rights of access, rectification and deletion of data.

Payment security

You can verify that a site is secure when it includes the “S” secure site in its title: “https”; other indicators are a closed padlock or key footnote, also the slogan “Secure Socket Layer (SSL)”. In any case, the safest way of payment is cash on delivery.

The right of withdrawal (‘cooling off’ period)

You have a period of 14 calendar days from receipt of a product ordered over the internet to change your mind and cancel the contract. This must be without any cost or penalty, provided you return the item without impairment – although it may be unpacked. It is advisable to communicate your wish to withdraw in a reliable manner: fax or recorded delivery post.

There are exceptions to the right of withdrawal. For example:

  1. Services provided, once the service has been fully executed, when the service has started at the time you order it
  2. Purchases made in public auctions
  3. The supply of certain personalised goods

The proof of purchase

When a transaction is carried out online, it is essential – for security reasons – to keep all the relevant documentation as proof of the purchase:the identification details of the selling company, the legal terms of the purchase, the general conditions of the contact, the screenshot of the transaction made, the confirmation email received in your personal email, proof of payment, delivery note, invoice etc. We have to clarify that they are only obliged to give you an invoice.

How to present a complaint

In general you have to know that purchases made through Internet, are considered made at the place where the customer has his/her address and not where the company is located. However, this is different for companies located abroad and which don’t have any establishment in Spain; in these cases it is very difficult or almost impossible to present a complaint.

Having said this, if any problems with your purchase that cannot be resolved amicably it is convenient to make a written complaint as soon as possible. Make it to the company whose details appear on the website, by means of an mail addressed to the registered office of the company, or through the website to the contacts indicated there (customer service department or other emails addresses which appear there). Some sites have a claim form for customers’ use.

If you don’t receive an answer or if it is unfavourable, you can proceed as follows:

Companies in Spain

If it is a company with its address or with permanent establishment in Spain, you can submit your complaint to the consumer authorities (local Consumer Centre, Consumer Arbitration Association, General Administration for Consumer Protection of the relevant Autonomous Community) corresponding to your place of residence.

Or, when it is appropriate, to the Courts of your place of residence.

EU companies

If it is a foreign company located in the European Union, you can submit your complaint through The European Consumer Centre . An online multilingual platform has been recently created in order to resolve these kind of conflicts. This platform will offer a quick and safe alternative for the settlement of this kind of legal processes concerning purchases – either national or foreign.

Companies in a non-EU foreign country

Finally, if it involves a foreign company from a country which is not a member of the European Union, and doesn’t have a permanent establishment either in Spain or in one of the other countries of the European Union, the complaint process will be practically impossible, because you have to file the complaint to the administrative bodies or to the Court of the country where the business is located.

Conclusion

Spain has strong consumer protection laws, which are quite clear on what you have to do in most cases. The real problems arise if you don’t take action quickly, or if your complaint lies with a company that is not based in Spain.

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