Spend enough time in Tenerife and eventually you are bound to encounter some degree of shoddy service, defective goods or something else that simply isn’t up to standard.
In most cases, such problems can be resolved by raising the issue with the business or establishment in question and asking them to put things right. However, what do you do if your complaint isn’t taken seriously? What do you do if you are sold defective goods, but then refused a replacement or refund? What if you believe you have been overcharged, tricked or ripped off in general?
The good news is that Tenerife (and Spain) has an established legal procedure for resolving consumer complaints that is relatively straightforward and often avoids the need to go to court or instruct costly lawyers. The complaint procedure revolves around a wonderful document known as a ‘Hoja de Reclamaciones’ (“Complaint Form”).
Sadly, the following procedure is not available for complaints against official or government departments, the police or the tax office. It is only available for complaints against private businesses and traders.
All businesses or traders in Tenerife (and Spain) are required by law to keep Complaint Forms and to make them available to customers upon demand. Complaint Forms are supplied by the local Ayuntamiento (“Town Hall”) for the borough in which the business is registered / trading.
If you have a genuine complaint with a business or trader, the first obvious step is to try to resolve the matter amicably in person, or by phone, email or even text message. If that proves fruitless, the next recommended step is to send the business or trader details of the complaint in writing. The recommended method is to send an official Burofax (a letter sent via the Post Office using a special recorded facility) and then giving the business an appropriate period to resolve the matter to your satisfaction (typically 7 or 14 days, depending on the practicalities and complications in each case). Other forms of written communication are also acceptable, including email, text message, whatsapp etc, although less reliable, as it’s easier for the business to deny ever receiving it.
If the matter still doesn’t get resolved to your satisfaction, then you should demand a Hoja de Reclamaciones (Complaint Form). The business or trader is legally required to provide you wish this upon demand. Often, the very request for a Form motivates the business to take your complaint more seriously, because if the business gets several complaint forms filed against it, the authorities can take legal action against them, including cancelling their business trading licence.
If the business or trader refuses to provide you with a complaint form despite your repeated insistence, you should immediately report the matter to the nearest Police Station (namely the ‘Policia Local’, but NOT the Policia Nacional or Guardia Civil). Refusal to provide a Complaint Form is a serious infraction, which can result in a hefty fine for the business concerned, or even cancellation of their trading licence.
The Complaint Form should be filled out on the business premises and signed by both you and the business. Both parties put their full details and you then give BRIEF details of your complaint and what you are looking for to resolve the matter (e.g. a refund, or repair, or similar replacement etc). Ideally the form should be completed in Spanish, but forms in English are accepted if there is no other option. The business may wish to add written comments under yours, but there is no requirement for them to do so, as they will be given an opportunity to officially respond later.
Unfortunately you cannot claim additional compensation or damages via a Complaint Form. To claim those, you would have to take the business to court. The Complaint Form procedure is basically just an arbitration process.
The Complaint Form is made up of triplicate carbon sheets. You must keep the top 2 sheets (white and green), whilst the business keeps the bottom sheet (pink). you should also collect together and keep all evidence that you might need to prove your claim (receipts, invoices, guarantee cards, photos, correspondence, independent reports, witness statements etc etc).
You should then take the White top sheet, together with photocopies of all relevant supporting evidence as summarised above) to the local ‘Oficina de Informacion al Consumidor’ (Consumer Information Office). You can find your nearest office HERE (click on the nearest town to the business you are complaining about). Alternatively, if the correct office is a long journey away, or you are outside Spain, you can submit the Complaint Form and supporting documents via Burofax at any Spanish Post Office, or via International Signed For Recorded Delivery from outside Spain.
The Consumer Information Office will then investigate your complaint by contacting the business in question and seeking their response / cooperation. They will then report back to you by post with the outcome, which can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 4 months, depending on the backlog and the time taken for the business to respond.
If the above procedure still doesn’t provide you with a satisfactory outcome, then the only other option is to consult a lawyer and consider taking the business or trader to Court.
Tenerife Solicitors are a firm of English Solicitors and Spanish Abogados based in Tenerife that offer advice and representation on all consumer related disputes, including court litigation where necessary. For more information, visit their website at https://tenerifesolicitors.com