Spanish government proposes law banning automated customer service

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By Euronews  with AP
A woman holds a Spanish flag in Madrid on 23 October 2020
A woman holds a Spanish flag in Madrid on 23 October 2020   -  Copyright  AP Photo/Manu Fernandez

In a bid to rid consumers of having to deal with those universally-hated automated voices on the phone, Spain's government is presenting a bill that would make it obligatory for companies to have a real person in customer services pick up the call.

The bill, which includes a number of other related measures - such as limiting the time it takes to answer the call to a maximum of three minutes - was proposed by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs and backed by the country's ruling left-wing coalition in November. 

It will now need the approval of Spain's Council of State, followed by MPs, before it can become law. The government's spokeswoman Isabel Rodríguez described this as the "second round".

Consumer Affairs Minister Alberto Garzón said: "Customer services... far too often cause endless headaches for Spanish families, because far too many companies create bureaucratic labyrinths to stop you from exercising your right to service.

"These difficulties also represent an enormous waste of energy, time and money for the families, [with] many being resigned to giving up on their rights."

Providers of basic services, such as utilities, phone and internet services, would have to offer customer service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. All other firms would be obliged to provide customer service during normal working hours. 

All customer complaints would also have to be responded to within 15 days, with a provision allowing each of Spain's autonomous communities to cut that down even further if they choose to do so.

The law would apply to all utility providers regardless of their size, and all other companies with more than 250 workers or whose turnover exceeds €50 million a year. Fines for breaking the law would range from €150 to €100,000.

Additional sources • EFE