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
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 %).