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Alternative resolution of consumer disputes (RAL)

The Law No 144/2015 of 08 September, came to transpose the Directive 2013/I, the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2013 on the alternative resolution of consumer disputes.
The decree establishes the legal framework of the mechanisms of alternative resolution of consumer disputes, creating in Portugal the Network of Arbitration of consumption.


What are consumer disputes?
Disputes are initiated by a consumer against a supplier of goods or service provider, which comply with the contractual obligations arising from contracts of purchase and sale or provision of services, concluded between the supplier of goods or service provider established services and consumers resident in Portugal and in the European Union (Article 2(1) of Law No 144/2015.


What is the RAL?
The RAL are mechanisms available to consumers and businesses to try to resolve disputes outside the courts, in a more expeditious and inexpensive. The RAL covers mediation, conciliation and arbitration. The ADR process begins with an attempt to agreement through mediation or conciliation. However, if this agreement is not reached, the players can also appeal to the Court of Arbitration, through a simple and fast process.


What are entities RAL?
Are independent entities, with specialized personnel, who impartially, help the consumer and the company to reach an amicable solution. These entities are authorized to perform the mediation, conciliation and arbitration in consumer disputes. These entities have to be entered on the list provided for in Article 17(1) of Law No 144/2015.


Who is responsible for managing the list of ADR entities?
The Directorate General for consumer is the competent national authority to organize the registration and disclosure of the list of entities RAL ( SEE ANNEX I).
How many entities RAL exist in Portugal?
In Portugal, there are 10 Centers of Arbitration in consumer disputes. Being that, seven are generic and competence of regional scope, being located in Lisbon, Porto, Coimbra, Guimarães, Braga - Viana do Castelo, Algarve and Madeira. There is also the center of territorial scope nacional (substitute), the CNIACC - National Center of Information and arbitration of Consumer Disputes. There are also two specific competence centers specialised in the automobile sector and in the insurance sector.


How is that a company knows what is the ADR entity which should indicate to their consumers?
The location of the conclusion of the contract of purchase and sale of goods or the provision of services, which generally coincides with the location of the establishment, determines the center of arbitration authority.
For instance:
a company that only has one or more commercial establishments in a given municipality, shall indicate only the ADR entity which has jurisdiction to resolve conflicts in this county.
A company which carries out its activity throughout the national territory, it must indicate all the authorities.
A restorative workshop vehicles, an insurance company or a travel agency, shall indicate the specialized bodies for these sectors.
Who is obliged to inform consumers about ADR entities?
All goods suppliers and service providers, including those who only sell products or provide services through the Internet, are obliged to inform consumers about ADR entities available or those who joined voluntarily or by which they are bound by virtue of the law. Are only excluded from the providers of services of general interest without economic consideration, such as the social services provided by the State or on its behalf, health services and public services of further education or higher.


The obligations that derive from the Law No 144/2015 shall apply, with the necessary adaptations, to all economic sectors not excluded by law, including those that already exist specific legislation that provides for the same obligation.
Is there any imposition of adherence to an ADR entity?
This law does not require adherence to any entity RAL, establishing only a duty to provide information about existing entities. But, there is the case of the arbitration required for essential public services, such as for example for electricity, gas, water and waste, electronic communications and postal services.


How is that companies must provide this information?
This information must be provided in a clear, understandable and appropriate to the type of good and service that is sold or provided (Article 18(2) of Law No 144/2015). So:
The electronic site of suppliers of goods or providers of services, if any.
In the contracts of purchase and sale or provision of services between the supplier of goods or service provider and the consumer, when they assume written form or constitute adhesion contracts.
There is no written form, the information should be provided in another durable medium, in particular a notice posted on the wall or affixed to the tour of sale or invoice delivered to the consumer.
The law provides a standardized model of information to consumers?
Not. However, please find attached a proposal for the formulation of a notice (Annex II).


Who is responsible for the supervision of compliance with the obligation to provide information to consumers?
The Food Safety Authority and economic and sectoral regulators in their respective domains, the supervision of the fulfilment of these duties, the instruction of their respective processes of contraordenação and the decision of these processes, including the application of fines and additional sanctions if necessary.


What is the consequence of non-compliance with the duty of information to consumers?
The breach of the duty of information of suppliers of goods or providers of services is contraordenação, punishable with
fines between €500 and €5000, when committed by a natural person.
Fine between €5000 and €25000, when committed by a person collective.
When you apply this new regime?
The Law No 144/2015 of 8 September, entered into force on 23 September 2015, and the suppliers of goods or providers of services had 6 months from that date, to adapt to this new regime. In this way, since 23 March 2016 companies must have this information available to their consumers.

Attention: The consumer information on the ADR entities available does not dispense with the suppliers of goods and providers of services to provide consumers with the Complaints Book, mandatory in accordance with the Decree-Law no. 156/2005, of 15 September.
List of Entities in Annex 1

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