Lusophone immigrant citizens have “common conflicts” with basic consumer rights, with telecommunications services, water and electricity leading the complaints, revealed the DECO representative in the Portuguese-speaking consumer organization.
These immigrants are “vulnerable, in terms of knowledge”, as they have “very low literacy on consumer rights, digital and financial”, said Graça Cabral, representative of the Portuguese Association for Consumer Protection (DECO) at the International Consumer Organization of Portuguese Language (Consumare).
The organization is made up of consumer rights associations from Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal, São Tomé and Príncipe, Macau and East Timor.
Delayed by the pandemic, the project “Direitos dos Consumidores Migrante” (Migrant Consumers’ Rights) started from the observation that these populations “have a very great vulnerability, which is the lack of knowledge of their rights as citizens, but also of the rules and legislation”.
Graça Cabral recalls that these are people who have moved from another country and, despite the similarities of the Portuguese-speaking language, they face major differences.
“The migrant is ashamed, feels fragile and has concerns that I thought I no longer had. People are afraid of being mistreated”, he stressed.
Taking advantage of the support that the associations give to these communities, often helping them in the most basic functions, such as filling out forms, looking for a house and a job, and referring them to services, a Consumare decided to start precisely with these associations, explaining to them the rights that belong to everyone.
“A consumer consumes is more aware and less vulnerable”, indicated the representative of DECO, adding that these associations that support immigrants are the first to realize their vulnerability, which then translates into conflicts that they do not know how to resolve.
On the other hand, said Graça Cabral, the association’s technicians also need to update their knowledge on areas such as housing, namely in terms of contracts and current legislation, and it is this information that Consumare has provided through several events. of training.
The knowledge acquired by these associations will now be expanded to the communities they support, so that no one is left unaware of their rights and everyone knows how to claim them.
And there is no lack of areas to act. Telecommunications lead the complaints – as it happens at the national level -, with contracts made by telephone, with loyalty, re-loyalty and overlapping contracts.
But there are also many conflicts with basic services such as water, gas and electricity, particularly in terms of contracts.
“How is it hired, how does the contract for the supply of electricity, gas and telecommunications work, what is the prescription, what is the invoice and how to read the invoice, basic lease issues, tenants’ rights, problems with unfair commercial practices” are some of the targeted interventions.
According to Graça Cabral, “these consumers are often caught in door-to-door contracts – for electricity and telecommunications – and have very little information about the contractual clauses.”
A scenario that is repeated in the relationship with banks, with many immigrants unaware of the possibilities of insurance with which they can protect themselves in credit situations, and in terms of leases, which is “a big problem”.
The Cape Verdean, Guinean and Brazilian communities are the most portrayed by the associations, which Graça Cabral believes is due to the fact that they are larger in Portugal.
“The problem is in exercising rights, in knowing the consumer’s rights. Despite the fact that the language is Portuguese, there are differences, adaptation difficulties, eating habits, situations that lead to rights not reaching these consumers”, but also very practical everyday materials, related to visas, study, integration in neighborhoods.
“People don’t even know they can complain, let alone complain,” said Graça Cabral.
After the training classes, which ended last September 29, a second phase of the project now starts with the edition of the guide “How to survive as an immigrant consumer” which will be distributed to all associations working with migrant communities.
Afterwards, these associations will “train their immigrants about their rights”, in order to make them “safer and more fearless citizens”.
The President of the Brazilian Association for Consumer Protection (Proteste), who currently assumes the presidency of Consumare, praises the pioneering spirit of this project, which has a great advantage of allowing associations that work with immigrants to “exercise, develop practices and pass on to others ”The knowledge acquired in training.
The objective is to “integrate communities in Portuguese consumer relations, so that they can know their rights” and have greater “knowledge of legislation related to consumption”, said Maria Inês Dolci to Lusa.
And he added: “This entire project was designed to clarify, provide information, so that you can, based on that knowledge, assume your role as active consumers in society, in the Portuguese economy.”