Consumer disputes

If you have a complaint about a product or service that you purchased, you can resort to an alternative dispute resolution body instead of going to court.

The list and contacts of the authorised alternative dispute resolution bodies that are part of the consumer arbitration network are disclosed by the Directorate-General for Consumers on the Consumer Website (only in Portuguese).

In the context of the marketing of banking products and services, institutions are obliged to provide bank customers with access to extrajudicial means of dispute settlement.

In credit intermediation and in the provision of consulting services, it is also mandatory to provide these extrajudicial means of dispute settlement.

Alternative dispute resolution is, as a rule, a faster, simpler and less burdensome way for customers and institutions to settle their disputes without the need to go to court.

An alternative dispute resolution body acts as an impartial intermediary between the customer and the institution. This entity may:

  • bring the two parties together in order for them to reach a compromise (conciliation);

  • propose to the parties a solution (mediation);

  • impose a decision (arbitration).

This scheme applies to alternative dispute resolution procedures:

  • initiated by a consumer (i.e. a natural person acting for non-business purposes) against a supplier of goods or services provider, including credit institutions, financial companies, payment institutions and electronic money institutions;

  • that have to do with contractual obligations arising from contracts entered into with the institutions;

  • relate to conflicts in which the institution is established in Portugal or in the European Union and the consumer resides in Portugal or in the European Union.

Disputes initiated by the institutions against consumers are excluded from the application of this scheme.

Suppliers of goods or services providers, including credit institutions, financial companies, payment institutions and electronic money institutions, are obliged to inform consumers about the alternative dispute resolution bodies which they have joined and the website of these entities.

If they have not joined alternative dispute resolution bodies, they must inform consumers about alternative dispute resolution bodies and their websites.

Institutions must provide this information in a clear, understandable and easily accessible manner on their websites, in their contracts (where they are in writing or constitute contracts of adhesion) or on another durable medium (for example, by means of a sign).

Alternative dispute resolution bodies must ensure, inter alia, that:

  • alternative dispute resolution procedures are effective and available and easily accessible both online and through conventional means;

  • it is not necessary to resort to a lawyer, and that the parties may be accompanied or represented by a third party;

  • the procedures are free or available for payment at a reduced rate;

  • the procedures are generally decided within a maximum of 90 days.

Online dispute resolution platform

When consumers have a complaint about a good or service contracted online, including banking products and services, they can use the online dispute resolution platform available on the European Commission’s website.

 

The European Commission’s online dispute resolution platform allows out-of-court settlement of disputes on contractual obligations relating to goods or services contracted online, including banking products or services, in Portugal and in other European Union countries.

Banking products or services contracted online are deemed to be bank deposits, consumer credit, other loans to private individuals and payment services that an institution provides via a website or other electronic means and that consumers acquire on the same site or through other electronic means.

To file a complaint regarding a product or service contracted online, consumer must fill out and submit the form made available on the online dispute resolution platform, attaching the relevant documents.

The complaint is sent to the institution concerned, which proposes an alternative dispute resolution body to the consumer.

After the agreement between the consumer and the institution in relation to the entity responsible for settling the dispute, the online dispute resolution platform transfers the complaint to that entity, which has 90 days to complete the procedure.

The list of alternative dispute resolution bodies is published on the platform.

Alternative dispute resolution bodies in Portugal are also linked to the platform.

For more information, consumers can contact the European Consumer Centre through the e-mail address euroconsumo@dg.consumidor.pt.

Institutions that market products or services online should:

  • provide an easily accessible link to the online dispute resolution platform on their websites and if the contractual offer to the consumer is made via electronic mail, provide the link in the same message;

  • inform consumers of the existence of an online dispute resolution platform and the possibility to use this platform to resolve their disputes if they have joined or are required to resort to one or more alternative dispute resolution bodies.

The information must also be provided under the general terms and conditions applicable to the banking products or services contracted online.