/ Francisca Barrientos, an expert consumer lawyer, joins Alessandri as counselor29 November, 2021
On the eve of the enactment of the pro-consumer law, which reinforces a series of consumer rights, Francisca Barrientos comes to strengthen the Alessandri team in consumer matters.
According to Francisca, “this law creates opportunities for companies to learn to negotiate with Sernac and put the consumer at the center. In this way they can not only improve service and reputation, but also avoid infringements. The great novelty of the law is that companies are obliged to create alternative dispute resolution methods, also called MASC”, explains the expert.
Dispute resolution within companies
Claims in some industries have seen explosive growth. In the telecommunications market, it increased by 85% this year, and in the financial market, by 27%. On the other hand, according to INE data from 2019 less than 1.5% of the claims in the Local Police Courts correspond to consumer cases.
It could be assumed that this low figure means that few consumers are pursuing legal action, despite the fact that claims are increasing. As there is therefore a large universe of customers who are dissatisfied with the purchasing or service acquisition processes, the new pro-consumer law brings a great novelty for consumers: it contemplates the creation of mechanisms for companies to carry out their own dispute resolution systems. It also establishes the consumer’s right to be informed about the existence of these mechanisms, which will be free of charge and paid for by the companies themselves, or to join those that already exist, as in some arbitration centers.
“The new pro-consumer law is an invitation to companies to resolve their own disputes with consumers, before going to the Sernac claims system or the Local Police Courts. The average fine for infringing consumer rights could reach up to 300 UTM (Ch$15,852,000). There are even fines of up to 2250 UTM (Ch$188mm) in the consumer law”, explains Francisca Barrientos, Ph.D., new counsel at Alessandri Abogados. “By putting consumers at the center, it will not only improve service, but could also improve the reputation of companies, as some may even no longer appear in the famous ranking of the most complained-about companies”.
Other changes in the new law refer to the reinforcement of rights such as the right of withdrawal, which becomes inalienable, and the increase in the term of the legal warranty from 3 to 6 months; a new legal warranty for automobiles is established, among others.
Who is Francisca Barrientos
Lawyer, Master in Private Law and Ph.D., Universidad de los Andes, she is the head of the Private Law Department of the Law School at Universidad Alberto Hurtado. She is director of the Chilean Institute of Consumer Law, member of the Chilean Institute of Civil Liability and member of the board of directors of the Chilean Association of Fashion Law.
Previously, she was deputy director of Legal and Administrative Interpretation of the National Consumer Service, research professor at Universidad Diego Portales, researcher at Fundación Fernando Fueyo Laneri, director and editor in charge of Academia de Derecho y Consumo, ADECO and director of Revista de Derecho y Consumo.
She is counsel of Alessandri Abogados since November 2021.