COMPLAINTS and claims made by consumers in the Balearic Islands shot up by 63 percent in 2003 to reach 4'236, confirmed the regional ministry for Consumer Affairs yesterday. According to the annual report presented by the department minister, Aina Castillo, of the total number of legal complaints, 2'264 were lodged at the General Directorate for Consumer Affairs in Palma, while the office receiving the second largest amount of complaints and claims was Ibiza, with 354. In the penalty section, 493 investigations were opened which resulted in 322 settlements being reached. The total payout figure for consumer compensation climbed to 1'062'000 euros, some 157 percent more than the previous year. The only figure which slumped was the one representing applications for arbitration, which fell by 3 percent from 471 to 456 in 2003. Director for Consumer Affairs, Manuela Meseguer, signalled that the categories with the largest amount of claims were those of suppliers of televisions, telephone services and internet equipment (with 15 percent of the total). This chart topper was followed at a great distance by such varied trading sectors as car hire, construction, and transport, all of them with less than 5 percent of the total amount of claims. In relation to complaints made by dissatisfied customers, areas which notably drew attention were: defective services, failure to carry out a service or installation according to agreement (2'488 claims); contractual conditions for services provided (716); product quality (425); and misleading publicity (104). Castillo made the point of the necessity to develop and upgrade mechanisms for processing claims and seeking advice, a project which the General Directorate of Consumer affairs is undertaking with tools such as the Consumer Advice web page (http://consum.caib.es) or the free telephone line which provides advice under the auspices of the General Directorate of Consumer Affairs (900 166 000). Since its setting up in March last year, this service has provided advice to 5'853 different callers. Castillo pointed out that since 1998, the Islands have their own Statutes governing Consumer Affairs and User Protection.
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