Consumer Rights in Brazil
Brazil has one of the most complete Consumer Defense system of the world, counting with the support of several institutions and regulations. Know more about how national laws protect the consumers and what to do in case you feel damaged
Consumer Rights in Brazil only acquired visibility after the Constitution of 1988, responsible for reestablishing democracy in the country after a long dictatorship. Following the US model, the Government issued the Consumer Defense Code (Código de Defesa do Consumidor) in 1991, a law that would organize all the rules to protect consumers. Also, the Code came to discipline the relations and responsibilities between providers and consumers, establishing standards of conduct, terms and penalties.
The Consumer Defense Code
The Brazilian Consumer Defense Code (Federal Law 8.078) can be summarized in the following ten points:
Life and Health protection: Before selling, providers must warn their consumers about the possible risks a determined product or service can offer.
Education for consumption: Consumers have the right to be given proper orientation about the adequate use of products and services.
Freedom of choice: Consumers have the right to choose the products and services that better fill their needs.
Information: Every product must bring clear information about its amount, weight, composition, price, possible risks and how to use it. Consumers also have the right to know every detail about their purchased services.
Protection against misleading or abusive advertisement: Consumers have the right to demand for everything that was promised in the adds. If what was announced was not complied, then consumers have the right to cancel the purchase and have their money back. Misleading or abusive advertisements are considered a crime according to the Code (art. 67).
Contractual protection: The Code protects consumers in case of non fulfillment of contract terms or when the terms are damaging to them. In this case, the judge can cancel or modify the clauses.
Indemnity: When damaged, consumers have the right to be indemnified by whom sold the product or provided the service, including moral damage.
Access to Justice: The consumer whose rights were violated can appeal to court and ask the judge to force the provider to respect his rights.
Facilitation of rights defense: An example is the inversion of the burden of the proof. That means that it will be the provider the one obliged to bring proof that he is innocent, not the consumer will have to prove that the provider is guilty.
Quality of Public Services: There are rules present in the Code that assure the quality in public services, as well as a good customer service by public institutions or concessionary companies of those services.
Check the Consumer Defense in its entirety here (in English)
The creation of the first Procuradoria de Proteção e Defesa do Consumidor office took place even before the Consumer Defense Code promulgation. The first Procon was established in the state of São Paulo, in 1970, but this action was copied by the other Brazilian states afterwords. All Brazilian state capitals have at least one Procon office.
Procon is responsible to guide consumers in their complaints, give information about theirs rights and verify the consumption relations. Although it is a state institution, the municipal governments can establish a Procon under their command. Procon deals with issues in the areas listed above:
The Brazilian Consumer Defense institutions
The National Consumer Defense Policy is coordinated by the Consumer and Protection Defense Department (DPDC) subordinated to the Secretariat of Economic Law of the Ministry of Justice. Consumers can count with 1,3 million service stations throughout the country. The institutions responsible for consumer rights in Brazil are:
- Procon offices and their similar in states and municipalities
- Health and Agricultural Surveillance
- National Institute of Metrology Standardization and Industrial Quality (Inmetro) and the Institutes of Weights and Measures (IPEM)
- Special Courts, apart from regular justice services
- Public Prosecution Offices linked to the Office of the Public Interest Attorney
- Specialized police stations
- Civil entities for Consumer Protection
- The Brazilian Tourism Board (Embratur)
- The Private Insurance Superintendence (SUSEP)
How and where to complain
1)Contact the provider: almost all the companies have their Serviço de Atendimento ao Consumidor, SAC (Customer Service). You can find the telephone number on the product packaging. While complaining, tell every detail of what happened, this will help you solving your problem. Keep the invoice, receipt, guarantee certificate, contract, or any other documents you may have as a proof. It is possible to complain only with some sort of document that prove the purchase. After complaining, keep the proof that you complained, like the protocol number for example. Do not forget to write down the name and occupation of the operator who attended you.
2)Go to a Consumer Defense institution:if it was not possible to solve the problem directly with the provider, then you have to go to the local Procon office, bearing your documents, the provider's information and the proof of purchase. There, you will get advice on what to do next.
3)Recurring to the law: if the Procon could not intermediate an agreement between the consumer and the provider, then the consumer will have to recur to the Justice. The lawsuit can be done alone or in group, depending on circumstances. The first action is to find a lawyer, then chose the court. When it comes to consumer rights, Brazilian Justice tends to be slow, so the best option is still to set up an agreement with the provider. But of course, only when this option is viable, as there are cases that only can be solved in court, due to its seriousness.