What do we com­plain about?

Two-thirds of all com­plaints re­ceived from dis­sat­is­fied cus­tomers dur­ing 2017 were aimed at the coun­try’s banks, ac­cord­ing to a new re­port from FACUA, a lead­ing con­sumer group

Costa Blanca News (North Edition) - - COSTA LIVING - By Dave Jamieson

FACUA says it re­ceived al­most 87,000 com­plaints last year, up 41.7 per cent on 2016

TWO-THIRDS of all com­plaints re­ceived from dis­sat­is­fied cus­tomers dur­ing 2017 were aimed the coun­try’s banks, ac­cord­ing to a new re­port from a lead­ing con­sumer group.

FACUA – Con­sumers in Ac­tion says that the sec­tor gen­er­ated six times more le­gal ac­tions than the other ma­jor tar­get for users, the tele­coms com­pa­nies.

In its re­port “What do con­sumers com­plain about?” FACUA says it re­ceived al­most 87,000 com­plaints last year, up 41.7%on 2016. Its mem­ber­ship of more than 200,000 made their voices known in per­son at one of its 17 re­gional of­fices, by phone or on­line.

A to­tal of 14,466 cases against banks and fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions were fi­nally pur­sued by FACUA lawyers. Most of the cases con­cern re­pay­ments linked to the so-called floor clause, the min­i­mum in­ter­est rate which bor­row­ers were forced to re­pay on mort­gages, even if the bench­mark rate, nor­mally the Euri­bor, dropped be­low it. This hap­pened from 2009 on and meant that cus­tomers with such a clause hid­den in the small print of their loan agree­ments were un­able to ben­e­fit from the lower rate.

How­ever, the clauses were fi­nally out­lawed and the banks or­dered to re­pay over­pay­ments and in­ter­est on the cap­i­tal.

Other bank­ing prob­lems in­volved charges levied by banks to set up new mort­gages, and FACUA says it has been the “pas­siv­ity” of the gov­ern­ment which has forced prose­cu­tions against “mas­sive fraud.” The group de­scribes as “scan­dalous” the “lack of ac­tion by au­thor­i­ties, com­pe­tent in con­sumer pro­tec­tion at na­tional and re­gional level, against the very se­ri­ous frauds which have taken place in re­cent years.”

The num­ber of com­plaints against tele­coms com­pa­nies in 2017 fell by five points to 10.3% of the to­tal, com­pared with 2016. As well as al­legedly fraud­u­lent tar­iff in­creases by the ma­jor providers, FACUA mem­bers cited breaches of com­mer­cial of­fers, send­ing in­voices af­ter a ter­mi­na­tion of ser­vice, plus threats and abu­sive penal­ties charged when a con­tract is ended. Also listed were charges for calls not made and ser­vices not con­tracted.

The third high­est num­ber of com­plaints re­ceived last year con­cerned the au­to­mo­tive sec­tor which gen­er­ated 5% of the to­tal.

These were over­whelm­ing re­lated to the so-called diesel­gate scan­dal con­nected to the Volk­swa­gen group. FACUA says that hun­dreds of ve­hi­cle own­ers con­tacted them dur­ing 2017 ask­ing to be rep­re­sented in the crim­i­nal case opened against the car man­u­fac­turer in the High Court, with 7,200 cases now pro­ceed­ing.

Elec­tric­ity and gas com­pa­nies re­sulted in 4.4% of all com­plaints, mainly as a re­sult of in­cor­rect in­voices and al­leged con­tract frauds.

FACUA added that prob­lems still ex­ist with door-to- door call­ers try­ing to per­suade cus­tomers to change their sup­plier or tar­iff rate, or ask­ing for sig­na­ture on a form which turns out to be a new con­tract.

Other sec­tors which con­sumers com­plained about in­clude in­sur­ance (which gen­er­ated 2.5%of the to­tal), travel and in par­tic­u­lar air­lines (2.2 %) and the pur­chase and re­pair of ap­pli­ances (1.9 %).

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