Complaints handled by the Municipal Consumer Information Office up by 4.3% in 2021The biggest rise is in requests and complaints relating to basic utilities such as electricity and gas. Another increase worth noting is the number of enquiries about IT crime, scams and the theft of personal and bank details.
According to data from the 2021 report on municipal consumer services operated by Barcelona City Council, the Municipal Consumer Information Office handled 23,000 enquiries last year, with complaints rising from 7,034 in 2020 to 7,355 in 2021, some 4.3% more. The rest of the cases were consultations, which dropped 2.3% from 16,673 to 16,182.
Complaints linked to basic utility services have much to do with the change in pricing and the delay in the issue of invoices by power companies. The other areas where complaints are up are connected to banking and financial services, leisure and mobility (bookings and cancellations), online commerce and, less frequently, the telephone sector and contracts for online training courses.
The most widely used OMIC support channel in 2021 was the phone, the 10,850 enquiries handled this way accounting for 44.7% of the total. This was followed by online support, with 9,775 enquiries and complaints accounting for 40.2% of the total, and face-to-face support with 3,642, some 15% of the total. Finally, the registry for documents and letters accounted for 545 enquiries and complaints.
New consumer services charter
The approval of the new municipal consumer services charter adapts support services to legislative changes in this area to protect consumers. For example, a broader definition of the concept of a vulnerable person, moratoriums for payments of loans and mortgages, more subsidies and social discounts for basic utilities, the new law on guarantees and the treatment of digital products.
In many cases, these initiatives became part of the regulation following the emergency measures introduced in 2020 to tackle the pandemic. In addition, the OMIC enjoys the collaboration of the Barcelona Bar Association (ICAB) to receive specialised assessment.
New at the OMIC in 2022
The Municipal Consumer Information Office is developing various information projects to improve protection for consumers, such as the annual programme of consumer information sessions in the districts, particularly in centres for the elderly, the financial education programme for families and the guide offering practical advice for senior citizens.
Backing is also being given to the e-administration for user support, providing help for organisations and projects defending consumer rights. Sectoral inspections also continue in coordination with the City Police, Health and Safety and the Catalan Consumer Affairs Agency.