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Meeting of 19th April 2012

Meeting of 19th April 2012

Christian Hofer explained that Consumer Protection Legislation is needed because, whilst we all have the freedom to decide whether or not we sign a Contract, the Spanish legal system tries to protect us from unfair business practices. For this reason business people need to know the legislation relating to the sale of goods and services. Most Consumer laws throughout the EU are similar and have the general principle that not everything signed by the parties is valid: for example a Contract that negates the law.

There are 4 parties to a Contract for the purchase of goods; the Consumer is the buyer, the Enterpriser is the seller and both the supplier and the shipper have legal obligations. A claim may be made against either the supplier or the shipper if the product is faulty. A product is only considered defective if it does not offer the same performance as a similar product manufactured at the same time. It cannot be compared with a similar product manufactured at a later date.

The Sale Contract between the Consumer and the Enterpriser must state clearly that it is a Contract and not just an Offer. It must also be in a language understood in the area e.g. Spanish and not Russian. It must state the Price, Expenses, Taxes, any Additional charges that will be made, and the Right of Cancellation.

If the Enterpriser gives a loan to finance the Contract and the main contract is then cancelled, the financing contract is also cancelled, even if it is through a third party. Any ambiguous language in the Contract is always read in favour of the Consumer. The cancellation period is normally 7 days and the Enterpriser cannot ask for compensation for use of the object if it is returned within the cancellation period.

In Spain businesses frequently show their 'Condiciones Generales de Contracción' on the wall of the room where the Contract is signed and the Consumer accepts these when he signs. These conditions MUST be legal to be valid, e.g. they cannot state that a claim for goods purchased in Marbella must be made through a court in Madrid or England. The information required and the rights of the Consumer are the same for Contracts made at a distance, like Internet purchases, and also for those made in a home such as door-to-door sales.

Vladimir pointed out that the cancellation period of 7 days does not apply to a deposit placed on a Property purchase and Christian said that Consumer Protection Legislation does not apply to Property purchases because these are, eventually, signed before a Notary who explains the contract to the buyer. However, where a property is purchased directly from a constructor, the contract CANNOT state that the buyer has no guarantees OR takes over an existing mortgage. These conditions do not apply to a property contract between private people.

David said that it is very difficult to get Consumer law accepted in a court and there was then a discussion about the illegality of some extra charges by airlines, such as the fuel surcharge added to the ticket price.