Consumer associations are not charities . When we contact any of them (if we succeed), they immediately try to recruit us to become partners, religiously paying a membership fee.
We have read about it in Connect magazine , specialized in mobile devices, and in its November issue it publishes a four-page report on consumer associations , entitled "Desperately looking for partners . The text is the result of a field investigation, in which journalist Concha Viqueira tried to contact eight of these organizations by telephone to request advice on a fictitious legal dispute with a telephone company. And the final results have been quite disappointing .
To begin with, it was impossible to contact half the associations : the General Association of Consumers (ASGECO) , the Union of Consumers of Spain (UCE) , the Federation of Users - Independent Consumers (FUCI) and the National Union of Consumer Cooperatives and Users from Spain (UNCCUE) . Interestingly, at the call ASGECO and UNCCUE responds the same person a "man with a French accent" , which referred the reporter to call another phone number, the same in both cases, and to which no one answers for several days .
With the other four associations, he had more or less difficulties, but was able to contact. For example, with FACUA (Federation of Consumers in Action) . This association responded that we first have to send a written claim to the telephone company and wait 10 days for a reply from it. Only then, FACUA would provide legal support for a complaint, and as long as we become partners , paying a fee of 38.75 euros the first year and 33 euros the following .
The next is the OCU (Organization of Consumers and Users) . This time, the journalist calls stating that she has already sent the claim and received the corresponding reply. First, they asked her if she was a member of the OCU , and then they informed her that they could not provide legal support. Only advice and documentation , upon payment of a monthly fee of 4.3 euros for which you would also receive a magazine by mail . The first two months , this service is free .
The Confederation of Consumers and Users (CECU) also asked first if she was a subscriber to the association , and then they reported that to obtain legal support, an annual fee of 41 euros must be paid that covers all procedures except accompanying her in a trial . They then asked what exactly the problem is, and invited her to send a written complaint to the telephone company , which this time has a month to reply . From then on, and after becoming a member, they would take action to help her.
The last association that Connect magazine could contact was the Spanish Confederation of Organizations of Housewives, Consumers and Users (CEACCU). The procedures for them to attend are a bit cumbersome : you have to send them an e-mail explaining the problem, wait a week and call on the phone on a Tuesday or Thursday morning. After the process , the operator checked the file and directly put her in contact with a lawyer, without asking if she was a member or proposing to do so .
One of eight
"Only CEACCU helped us without asking one euro in exchange" , says one of the highlights of the report. And this is "an example for other organizations" according toMiguel í ngel Muñoz , director of the magazine. For Miguel í ngel , who is also a collaborator of the SER Digital program , the report "gives a fairly clear idea of the true role that these, I would say, companies, rather than associations, fulfill .
"Born, hypothetically, to fight for the rights of users and help them in critical moments, the operating reality is totally opposite," says the director of Connect , who is struck by "for example when talking to FACUA, we they make it clear that if a subscriber does not pay their fees, they paralyze any help they are offering ” .
Our point of view at tuexperto.com is that on the one hand, it is worrying that half the associations were not contacted , and especially in the case of ASGECO and UNCCUE , which share both a telephone number and a telephone operator. For the rest of the associations, without acrimony, it would not hurt to take the report to make a constructive self-criticism .
We could say that it is a way of "receiving your own medicine" , since if you read the magazines and publications of this type of organization, you will find reports and studies very similar to the one prepared by Connect , but analyzing other companies. Consumer associations, after all, are also private entities , and therefore capable of being evaluated (and more so when they receive public subsidies).
In any case, it must be clarified that the average membership fee for these bodies is 35 euros per year , much lower than that of any other legal advisory society. And as the report concludes, their services "can be useful to clarify, in terms of consumption, our present and future problems" . In short, you also have to take care of the forms . Of course they should look for affiliates, but it would not be bad if they did not attend us in a way so similar to that of a commercial telephone operator , especially concerned that we become partners.