Written by Sally Veall,
Last Modified: 1st March 2022

Your enjoyable and relaxing retirement in Spain will be immeasurably better if you can get along with Spanish bureaucracy. The good news is that a new law should ensure better customer service…

Living in Spain is generally a joy for most people who move here, but there are a few things which aren’t quite as enjoyable – queues at banks, post offices and in some government offices, for example.

But things are looking up! Most government agencies now offer appointments which you can book online and new rules to improve customer service are due to be introduced.

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Spain’s new customer service law

Companies will have to put the customer first. They will have to provide a service which is easy to access, effective and inclusive which can also be publicly rated. For now, this will only apply to very large companies and corporations which have more than 250 members of staff, such as Zara, Telefonica, Orange, El Corte Inglés, BBVA, Banc Sabadell, Caixabank, Banco Santander, Iberdola, Endesa and Mapfre.

Another welcome rule will help everyone who is facing increasingly large energy bills. Gas, electricity and oil companies will have to provide the opportunity to find out about ways to reduce consumption, how to use energy more efficiently and how to acquire renewable energy.

Another good piece of legislation concerns banks. They have come in for a lot of complaints in the past few years, partly because of the high number of branch closures – 25,000 to date – and partly because they are now almost forcing the customer to use technology with Apps on smartphones and similar. For the elderly in Spain, this has presented a huge problem as many only have basic mobile phones, and a number don’t even have a debit card to use at an ATM.

New laws will be brought in requiring banks to provide a minimal basic service in branches, allowing the withdrawal of cash and enquiries free of charge in rural areas.

All complaints must be attended to and solved quickly and within a month at the latest.

Complaints

Until now, the best way to get a company to deal with a complaint has been to email them – it saves hanging onto the phone for ages and usually you get a reply within 24 hours, though with some companies, you might have to wait 3 days. Under the new legislation, however, companies will have to interact personally with the customer rather than forcing them to use an automated system. This applies also to other problems and enquiries.

If the customer is unhappy with information given by the agent, they will have the right to ask to speak to a manager during the conversation and this should happen immediately, without having to wait for another call.

All complaints must be attended to and solved quickly and within a month at the latest. They can be made by phone, if the original order was telephoned, or on the internet if that was the way the order was made. The customer must receive an incidence number in writing, by text or email with the ability to track developments.

A public rating service will have to be put in place and the “satisfaction” ratings will only be used after a complaint or query has been solved.

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“Oh hold”

Many a time, one is left hanging, waiting interminably for a call to be answered accompanied by piped music.

No more! The new law will institute a time limit for holding on, even on free numbers. This being the case, we may be saying “goodbye” to that awful, recorded message telling us that all agents are busy and to call back later. Also, we will no longer be told to phone a different number which carries a tariff if we call a free number.

Availability

Customer service departments must be accessible during the company’s opening hours. Energy, telephone and similar enterprises must be available 24/7. Utility companies will need to provide an emergency number for calls about disruption to supply out of hours or at weekends.

No soft sell

Often, when one is phoning to complain about a purchase or service, the agent will offer you a better deal, new product, new service.

No longer! Such practice will only be permitted if the “offer” is in fact the solution to the problem. Any change in charges related to the improvement of the product or service will have to be clearly stated to the customer.

Refunds and compensation

Customers will be entitled to a “fair” compensation, which might be a shop voucher or a discount on a subsequent invoice. A great improvement is the requirement that all contact details of a company must be clearly displayed on all letters, invoices or websites in a form that is easily and quickly readable and not hidden away at the bottom of the page.

If the complaint is made by telephone, the conversation must be recorded and then a so-called receipt for it should be sent to the customer with advice as to how to access the recording. There should be no time limit set.

Customers will be entitled to a “fair” compensation

Public services

This includes all utilities, gas, electricity, water as well as transport, banks and telephone companies. No longer will the customer have to contact them if there is a problem, the company will have to release information.

For example, this means that if the electricity supply is disrupted in a town or even just one street, it is for the company to contact each customer to explain what is being done to rectify the situation and to tell them their rights – this could be a discount on the next bill.

Since the service provided must be inclusive, it has to take into account people with hearing difficulties, the elderly, blind people and so on, and therefore cannot solely rely on technology.

Staff training

Companies must give customer service personnel full training on how to deal with the public and about the rights of the customer and laws concerning consumers. This training will include helping those with disabilities, so courses in sign language might be included.

As a person who has lived in Spain for 16 years and has battled with customer services on numerous occasions, this new law is really excellent news and not before time. The use of recorded messages, Chatbots and other non-personal forms of contact are frustrating and time-consuming. The word “service” is finally being made compulsory.

Read your Emigration Guide to find out everything you need to know about moving to Spain.

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