In Spain, the travel industry is regulated by several laws and most importantly the ‘law for consumer protection.’ The latest version is the Royal Decree 1/2007. Like in any consumer activity at the purchase of a travel service, both consumer and travel operator agree either implicitly or explicitly on a contract.
Additionally law 21/1995 and law 39/2002 specifically regulate the package-holidays industry, consumer rights and travel operator’s obligations.
If the consumer has purchased the services directly (for example flights tickets and hotel separately) he will have to direct his complaints to the individual companies, separately. If the consumer purchased the services through a third entity like a travel agency he will have to address his complaint to the intermediates and/or to the service provider, depending on the contract signed at the purchase. In cases of package holidays the complaint must be directed to the tour operator.
Different ways to solve problems
If the consumer is not satisfied with a product or service received, he should first contact the customer services of the company. It is always better to follow up any verbal communication by telephone directly by a communication in writing in order to keep material evidence for later if necessary. If this initiative fails there are other possible ways.
The administrative way
The consumer can complain to the Spanish administration by filling in a complaint form (hoja de reclamaciones) or by sending a letter to the local OMIC (Municipal Consumer Complaints Office) of the city where the travel product has been purchased. At most the company will be fined, but the consumer will not receive any compensation. Nevertheless if the company is sanctioned by the administration, this can be used as evidence for further complaints.
The Consumer Arbitration System
The consumer arbitration system in Spain is an instrument enabling the effective and rapid resolution of disputes between consumers and companies in the context of consumer products and services.
A large majority of travel industry disputes can be resolved through this system. The parties in conflict will voluntarily entrust an arbitration body that will impartially resolve the conflict. Even though the procedure is extra judicial, the final decision will have the same effects as a court sentence. The procedure will last for up to 6 months.
Nevertheless it requires that both parties to voluntarily accept the resolution of the dispute through the arbitration system. We suggest reading the article at www.velascolawyers.com/arbitration
The judicial way
If the company does not want to go through the arbitration system there is the judicial way, where there are two possibilities:
This way is suitable for:
a) Forcing the company to pay for damages and interest
b) Cancelling clauses in the contract that are in violation of the law for consumer protection 1/2007
c) Forcing the company to offer the travel product under the same conditions as advertised
This will be reserved for the most serious cases like:
a) Fraud. Where there is a premeditated intent by the company to deceive the consumer. For example by never completely delivering the product purchased.
b) Cases of injuries or poisoning. For example inadequate safety and supervision was offered during travel activities or food poisoning.
In cases of systematic fraud it is best to join forces with other victims and present a single complaint.
While in the arbitration system proceedings the help of a lawyer will be helpful, in the judicial proceedings the help of a lawyer is mandatory.
Always check the contractual conditions related to the purchase, both for Internet and off-line purchases.
Read the full article at www.velascolawyers.com/travel