Conscious of the discrepancies among member states in product labeling, language use, legal guarantee, and liability, the redress of which inevitably frustrates consumers in cross-border shopping, EU institutions have launched initiatives harmonizing national legislation. Suppliers within and outside the EU should be aware of existing and upcoming legislation affecting sales, service, and customer support.
Spanish consumers are becoming more demanding when it comes to after-sales and customer service. All technical products and most consumer products have after-sales service/customer support. At the industrial level, service and technical support remains an important competitive factor. Regulations require that after-sales service be available for government procurement.
Customer service is not as developed as it is in the United States. Many stores, particularly smaller ones, still have no return policies. The larger department stores and new retailers (usually foreign) have return policies similar to those in the United States. In recent years, customer and end-user organizations have gained ground in their effort to acquire greater protection and fair treatment for consumers. These entities are similar to the Better Business Bureaus. OCU (Organización de Consumidores y Usuarios) is the largest and best organized of these organizations.
Under the 1985 Directive on liability of defective products, amended in 1999, producers are liable for damage caused by defects in their products. A victim must prove the existence of the defect and a causal link between defect and injury (bodily as well as material). A reduction of liability of the manufacturer is granted in cases of negligence on the part of the victim.
The 1992 General Product Safety Directive introduces a general safety requirement at the EU level to ensure that manufacturers place safe products on the market. It was revised in 2001 to include an obligation on the producer and distributor to notify the European Commission in case of a problem with a given product, provisions for its recall, the creation of a European Product Safety Network, and a ban on exports of unsafe products to third countries.
Legal Warranties and After-sales Service
Under the 1999 Directive on the Sale of Consumer Goods and Associated Guarantees, professional sellers are required to provide a minimum two-year warranty on all consumer goods sold to consumers (natural persons acting for purposes outside their trade, businesses or professions), as defined by the Directive. The remedies available to consumers in case of non-compliance are:
- Repair of the good(s);
- Replacement of the good(s);
- A price reduction; or
- Rescission of the sales contract.