One of the most common bugbears of modern life is being challenged by the Spanish government as long telephone waiting times and computer generated customer service helplines are set to come to an end in the country.
In a surprise move Spain´s coalition government is presenting a bill to boost consumer rights with a Customer Services Bill, the aim of which is to make it easier for consumers to exercise their rights with a range of new measures.
The Minister for Consumer Affairs, Alberto Garzón, said that customers have the “full right to be served by businesses” and not frustrated by “administrative mazes or excessive waiting times”.
“Many people despair when they are faced with a customer service call or when they encounter serious difficulties in unsubscribing from a service” and that the present lack of regulation means “customer services are far too often cause endless headaches for Spanish families, because far too many companies create bureaucratic labyrinths to stop you from exercising your right to service,” explained the minister.
“These difficulties also represent an enormous waste of energy, time and money for the families, [with] many being resigned to giving up on their rights.”
Maximum waiting times for telephone help and customer service lines are to be set to 3 minutes.
The exclusive use of robotic customer service systems is prohibited and, if a customer wishes to speak to a human, then the call will need to be transferred immediately.
In addition, utility companies and major retailers will be required to have resources to cater specifically for the elderly or people with disabilities, for example by providing instant messaging services or sign language interpretation systems.
The future law affects all public and private companies offering consumer services such as electricity, gas and water supply, passenger transport, postal, financial and communication services.
In addition, regardless of the sector, those with more than 250 employees or a turnover of more than 50 million euros.
All such companies must have a customer service desk whose opening hours correspond, as a minimum, to their business hours, and utility companies must guarantee 24 hours a day, every day of the year.
Minor infringements of the provisions of the law may lead to the imposition of penalties of 150 to 10,000 Euros.
The bill will also set to limit the maximum time for resolving consumer claims, complaints and incidents to 15 days.
Furthermore, no utility supply may be cut off while a complaint is in progress.
It will now need the approval by the Spanish Cabinet, followed by that of Parliament before it can become law.