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LIFE IN SPAIN

Why strikes in Spain may mean your Christmas presents don’t arrive in time

If you're looking to shop online in Spain these days or the store you're buying from doesn't have the product you want in stock, it could be that you don't get these gifts in time for Christmas, as a transport strike next week threatens to slow down deliveries considerably.

DHL truck in Spain
Transport workers in Spain are threatening to go on strike for three days before Christmas, making it impossible for countless deliveries to be carried out. Photo: Oscar del Pozo/AFP

UPDATE: Lorry driver strike which threatened online Christmas shopping in Spain called off

Spain has recently seen a wave of industrial action. There have been violent clashes between police and metalworkers in the southern city of Cádiz, as 25,000 walked out, and everyone from farmers to cleaners have been calling strikes across the country. 

The latest round of proposed strike action, however, could be felt more severely by consumers and Christmas deliveries might be affected.

On Thursday December 16th, the Spanish Confederation of Merchandise Transport(CETM) gave its support to the proposed strike, called for by transport workers and lorry drivers for December 20th, 21st, and 22nd.

CETM representatives said that despite some small progress in negotiations between the National Committee of Road Transport (CNTC) who called the strike, and Spain’s Ministry of Transport, a resolution was nowhere in sight.

Truck drivers demonstrated in the streets of Madrid on Wednesday to highlight the problems suffered by the road haulage sector.

The main concern is the sharp rise in costs (especially fuel), which drivers and small haulage firms often have to pay – into the thousands of euros – themselves.

Other demands include a ban on loading and unloading vehicles, the issue of tolls, and more safe rest areas on Spain’s motorways.

Hauliers say the sector is mostly small companies and self-employed workers with little bargaining power, but the drivers themselves are not the only small or self-employed businesses that will be affected in the supply chain. 

Spain’s self-employed union, La Unión de Profesionales y Trabajadores Autónomos (UPTA), has calculated just how much Spain’s small businesses have to lose.

Its president, Eduardo Abad, estimates that the strike could cause losses of up to €3.6 billion to small businesses throughout Spain.

He believes some 600,000 retail businesses in Spain are dependent on sales during the Christmas period, and that most, if not all, would see 20 percent of their turnover for the entire year put at risk.

In Spain’s Canary Islands, a two-and-half hour flight from Madrid, customs workers in the archipelago’s ports have joined the strike and around 1,000 container crates are expected to be held up due to worker inaction. 

In preparation for the strike action, many manufacturers, distributors and small retailers have anticipated the possible disruption and increased the backlog stock of products in their warehouses in advance.

This can’t be done for all products, however, such as fresh products like seafood – a customary Christmas meal for millions of Spanish families across the country – so there could still be supply and delivery issues with products with shorter expiry dates, despite businesses preparing in advance.

Similarly, and crucially for another Christmas period during the Covid-19 pandemic, the strike action could also affect online retail.

Millions do their shopping online at this time of year, whether to avoid the queues, or other people in general, buy last minute bargains, or to make use of services like next day delivery. 

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But all of these advantages could be undone if hauliers won’t move their products and presents around, and an agreement seems unlikely with time running out.

With only a week left until Christmas, the proposed strike days will potentially affect people who place their orders before December 20th, 21st and 22nd – depending on the product, their location and of course luck.

Haulier groups are advocating a “negotiating spirit” in order to try and find a resolution, but are waiting for the government to make a concrete proposal for a meeting in writing, with detailed content that address their demands.

Article by Conor Faulkner

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LIFE IN SPAIN

How to lodge a formal complaint in Spain: Hoja de reclamación

If you’ve experienced bad service in Spain that didn’t meet expectations or bought a product that didn’t do what it promised to, then you may want to fill out an official complaint form in a bid to get your money back. Here’s how to go about it.

How to lodge a formal complaint in Spain: Hoja de reclamación

At some point or another everyone has probably experienced poor service and demanded to be reimbursed, whether it was because a bus had a broken air-con in 40C heat and was two hours delayed or you bought a product from a store that broke a month later. 

The first step is obviously to try and contact the company and sort out the issue amicably, but if this method isn’t producing any fruitful results, you may want to fill out an hoja de reclamación. 

This essentially translates as a ‘claim sheet’ and is an official complaint form you can lodge against a company to try and get reimbursed for your purchase.

READ ALSO: What to be aware of before opening a shared bank account in Spain

According to the Organisation of Consumers and Users (OCU) there are three reasons that a complaint form of this kind can help. It can:

  • Let the Consumer Administration know about your case, so they can investigate it.
  • Try and get the company to reach an agreement with you.
  • Sanction the company if it has breached any of its obligations.

What are the advantages of filling out an official complaint form?

Sometimes, just the threat of filling out an official complaint form is enough for the company to give in or propose an acceptable agreement.

Companies obviously don’t want to have lots of negative reviews and have complaints filed against them, so by filling one out, you are actually helping them improve their customer service. 

If the company still won’t do anything after you’ve submitted the form and later you go to settle the matter in court, having filled out the form will be proof that you tried to find a solution first.

Can you use this type of form for all companies?

The OCU explains that there are companies in some sectors that you shouldn’t fill out an hoja de reclamación for in the first place. Instead, you must contact the customer service department of the company itself.

This is true for banks, insurance providers, investment companies, telecommunications services, transportation companies, airlines and energy companies.

“If they do not respond in a month or respond but do not provide a satisfactory solution, then you should go down the specific dispute route that their company proposes,” the OCU states.

How do I fill out this type of complaint form?

If you are dealing with a business or service provider that does not have a specific claim channel such as a bar, store, supermarket or hotel, you can ask directly for the claim form.

The form has three copies – one for you, another for the administration and another that you must deliver to the establishment itself. 

Make sure to make photocopies of any supporting documents that serve as evidence such as contracts, tickets, invoices, guarantees, advertisements or photos.

Once completed, you must give your forms and evidence to the Municipal Consumer Information Office (OMIC) or by mail or by electronic means to the General Directorate of Consumption of your region.

Each region will have its own forms you need to complete. If you don’t ask for them from the business itself, you can find them online. The one for Catalonia can be found here, for Valencia here, for Andalusia here, and for Madrid here. For other regions, you can simply type into an internet search engine: hojas de reclamaciones + your region.

Once completed, your case will be studied and you may be presented with a resolution. If it is not successful but the administration finds that the company has breached any consumer regulations, it will open a case starting a disciplinary procedure that usually ends in a fine.

Remember that, it is not guaranteed that you will get compensation, even if the company ends up being fined.

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