ANACOM considers the protection of consumer rights to be a priority

ANACOM marked World Consumer Rights Day on 15 March with the release of the first in a series of videos which will be broadcast throughout 2018, informing consumers about their rights. The first video highlights the precautions that need to be taken in concluding distance contracts - it can be seen on ANACOM's Consumers' website.

Complaints increase in 2017

ANACOM is presently completing statistical calculations on complaints reported in 2017. There was a 3% increase in the use of physical complaint books in retail outlets, with an increase of 35% including complaints which consumers could enter in electronic books (from July 2017). There were 72 thousand complaints reported in 2017, comprising 55 thousand complaints entered into physical books and 17 thousand complaints entered into electronic books, so that the benefits potentially obtained from the introduction of the electronic book are clear. In the case of the physical book, two of the largest communications operators (MEO and CTT) continue to send the complaints they receive to ANACOM on paper, despite the insistence that these be sent already processed in digital format1. This digital transformation is fundamental to facilitate the handling and analysis of complaints, minimizing associated costs, including at an environmental level.

In the case of complaints in the electronic communications sector (considering the two mediums used to provide complaint books), the three largest operators (MEO, NOS and Vodafone) accounted for 94% of total complaints. Of these, MEO was the operator whose complaints increased the most compared to 2016 (+47%), followed by Vodafone (+31%) and NOS (+14%). Among the smaller operators, there was also a significant increase in the number of complaints from customers of NOWO (whose weight in total complaints rose from 2% to 4% in the sector). The main reasons for complaints were related to cancellations, sale of services and billing.

In the case of complaints in the postal sector, CTT accounted for 93% of all complaints received. Complaints citing this operator increased by 47% versus 2016. The main reasons for complaints were related to significant delays in the delivery of correspondence, loss of items and delays in customer service.

ANACOM has emphasised the importance and priority that should be given to communications operator customer satisfaction, considering it a matter of urgency to reverse the trend in complaints. Operators should implement measures to ensure provision of clear information to customers, and to provide for efficiency of service and complaint resolution.

For its part, ANACOM will continue to take appropriate initiatives to improve information for consumers through: i) its own actions, ii) determinations and recommendations to operators to ensure adherence to best practice and strict compliance with legal obligations; iii) instigation of sanctioning procedures in response to illegal commercial practices.

Whenever warranted, ANACOM will continue to propose amendments to the law where these are essential to safeguard consumer rights, as has already done with regard to charges for unsubscribed services in the context of WAP billing and the provision of a sanctioning regime for cases of non-compliance with net neutrality and roaming rules.

Fires: urgent restoration of connections

On the occasion of World Consumer Rights Day, ANACOM reinforced the importance of restoring communications services to populations affected by the fires in 2017 and gave the matter upmost priority. Following complaints received and the contacts made with these populations, with the parish councils in burned areas and with telecommunication operators, it was concluded that there are still about 4.6 thousand customers whose telecommunications service has not been restored. Of these customers without restored service, 99% are MEO customers and the rest are NOS and Vodafone customers with services supported by the wholesale operator MEO.

ANACOM has been investigating the existence of commercial practices which may be detrimental to the interests and rights of the affected population and will not fail to take the measures as warranted in accordance with prevailing legislation.

It is recalled that NOS has been the universal service provider of the fixed telephone service since 2014, after concluding a contract with the Portuguese State. Under the terms of this agreement, NOS is required to install a fixed telephone for anyone upon request within the specified deadlines and with specified prices.

In November 2017, ANACOM drew attention to the low level of demand for services covered by the universal service contract - since the beginning of the contract, demand for the service has been immaterial, with only two customers. It was concluded that there was no justification in maintaining a contract at a cost of 9.6 million euros for the 5 years of its duration. Given the current contract in force, NOS could have met the urgent needs of the populations within the scope of the universal service of the fixed telephone service, a situation that objectively did not occur and confirms the timely questioning by ANACOM as to the justification for a contract with such a high cost in relation to the number of beneficiaries, which affects the whole sector and has an impact on consumers.

Call for participation in public consultations

On World Consumer Rights Day, ANACOM announced that the public consultation on the proposal for new quality indicators of the universal postal service would conclude on 19 March - a deadline that has been postponed twice at the request of CTT. ANACOM urges all interested parties to comment on the proposal by sending their comments by this date.

ANACOM considers it very important that consumers and other users of communications participate in the public consultations that precede its decisions.

1 As from 22 January, CTT stopped sending complaint sheets on paper and began emailing scanned images. ANACOM is waiting for the company to start submitting complaints through the digital platform. MEO undertook to submit complaints on the platform as from 15 March and as regards retail outlets which were still sending complaints on paper and which account for 78% of the total.