Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Who Complains?

Spain is a country where no one appears to buy the press any more (El País 96,600 copies sold daily here). Perhaps we get our news online, perhaps we watch it on the telly, and perhaps we don’t tune in at all.
With this shortfall in information, it could be that many citizens either don’t know who represents them and what their rights are, or maybe they just don’t care about such things.
It’s certainly the case that the aggressive consumer associations who look after us have an uphill job. Both Facua (here) and the Organización de Consumidores y Usuarios (here) fight numerous campaigns in the consumers’ interest. We have institutional consumer offices (see your phonebook) and even the ombudsman, the Defensor del Pueblo (the national one is here). All of them are working tirelessly for our protection, no doubt.
But what happens if the consumers aren’t particularly interested?
It is of course true that we customers have the chance for complaining sheets if we do so request for them, but, and here’s the remarkable thing: no one ever does.
The cost of electricity is so high that just for the potencia contratada (the maximum power consumption allowed to a customer), we pay the equivalent of a monthly dinner for two (well, not exactly the kind of dinner that shareholders in the power companies are accustomed to). The water bill meanwhile is raised apparently arbitrarily (my home factura suddenly went up 50% last month!). Then we suffer from the absurd government policy regarding alternative energy (decided, evidently, by the power companies), the clausulas suelo, the bank rip-offs, the phone companies, air-pollution and so on...
Over in Granada, a doctor known as Spiriman puts up some spirited criticism of the Junta de Andalucía’s health service cuts (through a mixture of rage and comedy). See his latest video here. On the TV, El Gran Wyoming (here) uses comedy while Jordi Évole (here) sticks to hard research and preparation. All good, but still the consumer is slow to complain.
Here is Facua from their book ‘Timocracia’ on ‘The 39 fines that make it profitable for businesses to defraud consumers until they are caught’: we read ‘...In Spain, ripping off consumers is so low in risk that even an apprentice can be a successful bean-counter. After almost forty years of democracy, the DNA of the Spaniards still does not incorporate the culture of claiming their rights as consumers. The percentage of citizens who report fraud is very low, and most don't know what to do when the company turns a deaf ear or says no...’.

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