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Family homes auctioned off over telecom debts

decoConsumer watchdog, Deco, has called for greater protection of the family homes as the law preventing their sale, to settle debts, only covers debts to the State.

One debt, to a telecommunications operator, meant a family lost the roof over their heads and remain homeless.

This is but one case reaching the Deco Financial Protection Office where families have lost their homes due to debt, the consumer protection association said on Wednesday.

"In these first three months of the year, situations have arisen every day," said Deco lawyer, Natália Nunes, adding that in many of these situations the value in debt and the equity value of the property pledged are hugely different.

Deco distinguishes two situations: those who have their house auctioned off to pay mortgage debts and those that are lost due to other debts, usually for smaller amounts - including telecoms bills.

Natália Nunes gave the example of a consumer who, for medical treatment, rented equipment for two years for a fixed monthly amount but, due to divorce did not pay the installments, while keeping the mortgage payments going.

The debt was called in and the house seized and auctioned. The house was worth €106,600 and in order to settle a debt of approximately €3,500. Situations like this happen, "all too often," says Nunes.

Since 2016, it has been forbidden to collect tax debts through the sale of family homes. Deco is calling for the extension of this law to cover debt collection procedures by companies.

The Deco lawyer said that houses are seized when debtors are on the minimum wage, since the Portuguese law does not allow an attachment of earnings process in these cases – but its fine to sell of the family home to collect the overdue phone bill.

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Comments  

+3 #1 Jordan 2019-03-29 17:32
If this seizing of houses for non-State debt has been happening for years why has Deco taken this long to mention it? The earliest versions of Deco type consumer protection in Portugal over 10 years ago all died without trace as the fundamental difficulty in Portugal has always been how to complain about poor or illegal service without triggering a state driven Defamation claim. After all we are in a country where just mentioning your grievance to a 3rd party then having the 3rd party cross reference back for clarification constitutes "Defamation"!
To kill off any dreams of consumer rights, any star pre-Deco agitators were given jobs in the public administration - so bought off and neutralised. So how genuinely independent and free thinking is today's Deco ?

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