The telecoms regulator’s March report contains details of fines levied against operators for some of the most blatant cases of deception and customer abuse yet recorded in this overpriced sector.
NOS was fined €210,000 for aggressive commercial practices and for providing customers with completely false information about services and prices as well as non-compliance with its legal obligations related to the termination of contracts.
According to Anacom, NOS, which is owned by the Sonae Group and Isabel dos Santos, "provided in writing to six clients and, orally, to one client, false information."
This information related to "the requirement of penalties for breaking a loyalty period in situations where such breaches had not occurred; adding monthly charges for services that should have been free and the failure correctly to handle a complaint form."
Anacom states that NOS call-centre staff, "harassed a sick and elderly client with various offers."
In other situations, NOS staff, "violated procedures defined by Anacom for the termination of contracts when customers ask," rejecting termination requests on the telephone and in NOS stores, and refusing to hand over a contract termination form in the store.
These infringements cost NOS €210,000 but the company of course has appealed to the Competition, Regulation and Supervision Court, thus wasting more of Anacom’s time and money.
It’s not only NOS that has little or no regard for its customers, Anacom fined PT/MEO for a dodgy trade promotion and fined Vodafone Portugal €26,000 "for having provided inaccurate and incomplete information on its website and through its call center operators regarding the price of calls made to a ‘1891 Greeting Cards’ service."
There was also a fine of €21,000 handed out to NVIAsms Portugal over a text message premium service and another in the postal sector of €800 for Fozpost which had fouled something up.
What this shows is that it is worth complaining to Anacom. This will be easier from July this year when customers can lodge complaints about shoddy service and blatant lying by using a new online service.
This welcome electronic system at first will be available to register complaints against electricity, water and telecommunications companies - with other trade sectors being added later.
Optimistically, the government expects companies that provide these services to respond to complaints "within 15 working days" and it wants the electronic complaints book system to be available on company websites.
This complaints service will co-exist with the in-store wrtitten version to ensure irritated customers have a choice.
In 2015, the five bodies handling 92% of the nation’s complaints were ASAE, the economic and food standards agency, ERS the heath service regulator, ANACOM which regulates telecoms companies, ERSE which regulated energy suppliers and the Bank of Portugal which claims to regulate the banking sector.