Mission: to punish fraud in the electricity, gas or terms abusive

The consumer will gain weight in the new Government with the creation of a specific ministry, the first time that happens in a democracy -until he was now insid

Mission: to punish fraud in the electricity, gas or terms abusive

The consumer will gain weight in the new Government with the creation of a specific ministry, the first time that happens in a democracy -until he was now inside of Health as a general direction-. What challenges will face the new minister, who according to sources close to the negotiation will be Alberto Garzón? The main consumer associations are calling for the Executive to regain powers sanctioning -now in the hands of the autonomous communities - so that the department can fine companies that perform fraud mass in the whole of Spain, to clarify which are the vulnerable consumers in need of special protection, put in place a law of transparency in contracts and promote responsible consumption.

Rubén Sánchez, spokesman of Facua, it assesses the new ministry as a very positive thing, and asks to take the opportunity to move forward in the defense of the consumers: “it would be illogical to have a ministry with exclusive jurisdiction in consumption that do not develop effective policies”. For that, he says, it is necessary that the Government also can impose fines. “The sanctioning powers in the area of consumption of the autonomous communities, and we ask that the powers to be shared, that is to say, that the Ministry of Consumer also can sanction companies that commit fraud in several autonomous communities, such as the large telephone companies, gas, electricity, banks...”, explains Sánchez. “As is the law today, if consumers suffer a fraud, you would have to open a file in each community, that is to say, 17 records. That is little operating and absurd. It would be more effective that the Ministry of Consumer have that ability to impose penalties at national level, without taking away the ability to penalize the communities”, he adds.

This change would require a reform of the General Law for the Defence of Consumers and Users, which dates back to 2007. Enrique Garcia, spokesman of the Organization of Consumers and Users (OCU), agrees that if the ministry would recover the ability to sanction it could better fight against fraud at the national level. In addition, requests to remove the obstacles that are the collective actions to be taken to court this kind of abuse.

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While changes to the law, the spokesman of Facua considers that the new minister should take advantage of the skills that you already have the department to take legal action against unfair terms. “The Government can take to the courts this type of fraud, but it is not done. We have decades seeing how there are fraudulent practices of large companies and the Government of the day did not act against them,” says Sanchez.

The OCU requested to punish the perpetrators of planned obsolescence, or are no longer fulfilled. “It should require manufacturers to report on the life of the product and to encourage more efficient alternatives for the best use of resources,” says Garcia. OCU puts the focus also in that it is necessary to define what is a vulnerable consumer, that is to say, that which by its economic resources, need special protection. “That would establish higher levels of protection and require specific requirements to the contracts for these people,” adds the spokesperson.

Manuel Pardos, president of the Association for the Defence of Consumers and Users of Banks, Boxes and Seguros (Adicae), considers that “Spain can be brought to the forefront of the defence of the consumer” if the new department manages to develop regulations, in matters of cross-cutting such as energy, banks, telecommunication, transport... “In the first place, you have to put in motion the Agency of Protection of Consumers of Banking and Financial that should have been created in 2017 at the behest of the European Union and we are still waiting for”, says Brown. With this body, “it will be more easy to fight against issues such as the terms floor, or the preferred, which have affected hundreds of thousands of spaniards”. In addition, the president of Adicae asked to pass a law of transparency in contracts, to clarify this type of documents and to prevent unfair clauses.

The president of the Confederation of Consumers and Users (CECU), Itziar Marín, calls for his party to change the rules so that the resolutions of the various agencies of consumption -state, regional and municipal - are binding. “If I cancel a flight due to ‘overbooking’ and the State Agency for Air Safety it gives me the reason, you can say that the company I pay back the money. But if the company refuses, I have to go to court to enforce my rights. To avoid that, and to make things easier, the resolutions of such bodies must be binding,” says Marin. In addition, consider that you can move forward in the regulation of the activities of consumption on the internet: “technology is going faster than regulation, so you have to be continuously updated”. In his opinion, the future minister has powers “to spare”: “labeled food, web pages, product safety, promote the protection of the consumer, promote the arbitration...”. In addition, the need “for greater coordination with the autonomous communities”.

Another of the topics that will further relevance will be the responsible consumption. “The green consumption has become a vital issue for society as a whole and can benefit from the new department,” explains Brown. “It should foster a kind of consumption more rational, but above all for consumers to be organized,” says Sanchez. In this sense, Conception Fabeiro, president of the Spanish Society of Ecological Agriculture (EEAS), is of the opinion that the competences of the ministry should include "to promote and give a lot of information to the public about responsible consumption, organic, seasonal and local", for which you should have with the entities of the sector.

According to sources knowledgeable of the negotiation, the Ministry of Consumption will incorporate powers to regulate gambling and betting houses, which currently depend on the Treasury, and are in great part transferred to the autonomous communities. Although it is not a classic theme of consumption, the consumer associations are in favour of greater regulation. “We must end as soon as possible with the ads of game hours for children, which currently are allowed by lack of regulation,” says Garcia, of the OCU. “We would have to prohibit the advertising of the game at the same level as that of tobacco,” adds Sánchez. “It is crucial that better regulation of the sector, which is ruining thousands of families, and the kids are not a room dand game right out of high school”, three of a kind Marín, of CECU.

Date Of Update: 09 January 2020, 00:00

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