By Wendy Williams
THOUSANDS of frustrated telephone customers are finally facing justice, as Spain promises to get tough with the telecoms industry.
It follows years of complaints about shoddy service from companies including Telefonica, Vodafone and Movistar.
Now, the government has finally promised to tackle the industry by issuing heavy fines for poor customer service.
While not naming names, the government insists it wants to curb the excesses of an industry, that sees a third of all consumer complaints each year.
According to FACUA, Spain’s consumer affairs association, a third of all complaints are about telephone companies.
In 2010 Vodafone was the most complained about company followed closely by Movistar.
The majority of gripes were for special offers which were not honoured.
Ushering in a new era, secretary of state for telecoms Juan Junquera, said his government ‘will not allow’ companies to break the new planned legislation.
He said: “Spain is leading what has to be done in Europe in terms of consumer protection and we are not going to allow legislation to be broken.”
He added that a number of investigations were already under way and several disciplinary proceedings are to be announced shortly.
Spain’s telecoms industry has long held a reputation for poor customer service and is often accused of overcharging, dubious sales practices and a failure to resolve technical problems.
Telefónica has come under fire from the EU for abusing its dominant market position.
The EU argued that between 2001 and 2006, Telefónica charged its rivals far too much for the use of their network infrastructure, leaving them with a profit margin that was insufficient to compete in the market.
Telefónica weakened its competitors, forcing them to incur losses if they wanted to match its retail prices.
As a result Spanish consumers were left paying 20 per cent more than the average in Europe for access to broadband.
But, interestingly the new sanctions come as Spain last week called on the European Court of Justice to throw out the record 152 million euro fine that was imposed on the Spanish operator in July 2007.