Suspended flights, canceled hotel reservations, weddings and communions that finally did not take place. Last year, the coronavirus crisis triggered inquiries and complaints from consumers who, in the worst case scenario, lost their money due to the refusal of companies to return it despite not being able to offer the contracted service.
Specifically, and according to data from Facua-Consumidores en Acción, the organization attended last year 12,606 claims of its associates, 35.5% more, and 93,491 consultations, 137.3% more than in 2019.
«Last year, the companies organizing shows and events, in addition to airlines and those related to tourism, were synonymous with consumer fraud, with a real avalanche of them that have not returned the money by not being able to offer services already paid as a result of the pandemic ”, explains Rubén Sánchez, spokesperson for Facua.
“The consumer you have the right to get your money back, but companies have opted in many cases not to return it or to force them to take bonds with an expiration date, making the affected believe that they had no other option, ”Sánchez denounces.
As he explains, the regulations not only oblige companies to reimburse amounts if they have been forced to close or suspend their activity due to the pandemic, but also when, while operating, the client has not been able to attend due to factors such as mobility restrictions or, for example, for being in a quarantine period.
Data from Facua indicate that almost a third of the complaints received in 2020, 27.8% of the total, were carried out by airlines and companies in the tourism and leisure sectors.
At this point, from the consumer association they criticize the inaction of the competent authorities, both at the regional level and in the Ministry of Consumption. “They have chosen to look the other way and not announce strong sanctions for these cases,” criticizes Sánchez.
If the different sectors of activity are shelled, the sanitary top the ranking of companies most claimed, fundamentally by the ‘Dentix case’, after the declaration of bankruptcy of the company. Complaints against private health insurers also increased, motivated especially by the refusal to cover services included in the policies and saturation problems in their clinics, something that also motivated a good number of claims in public health. The sector originated 17.4% of the complaints.
The second sector that received the most complaints was transport, with 15.3% of the total. The airlines mentioned above are included here, given the refusal to return the money to users. And not only because of the effects of the pandemic. There have also been numerous complaints related to cancellations for other reasons, such as, for example, flight breakdowns or delays.
The telecommunications companies They appear in third place, accounting for 13.6% of the claims received in 2020, all of them related to misleading offers, illegal penalties included in the contracts and, also, rate increases that were prohibited during the harshest months of confinement.
The fourth sector in complaints with 12.5% of the total corresponds to tourism and leisure (which, added to the airlines, adds up to the almost 28% mentioned above). This includes companies of travel agencies, hospitality, event organizers, festivals, etc. In the case of hostelry, many complaints have been related to the suspension of celebrations in which the company, instead of returning the money, only gave the option of keeping it to hold the event later. There have also been claims against establishments that skipped coronavirus prevention measures.
In fifth place, as usual in this ranking, appears the banking and financial services sector. Despite the efforts of the entities to implement measures that help to better cope with the crisis, such as the sectoral moratoriums on mortgages and consumption, they account for 11.7% of the claims. And most of them are related to the refusal to return the ground clauses with all interest for late payment. The expenses of formalizing mortgages and the collection of irregular commissions, have also starred in a good part of the complaints from consumers.
In the part of inquiries, which were also triggered by the crisis, Facua highlights those related to the insurance sector, especially in the Auto branch. In April of last year, the association launched a campaign for these companies to return a part of the insurance due to the fall in the accident rate derived from the confinement measures and the limitation of circulation.
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