If you plan on eating out or shopping in Mexico, it is a good idea to know your legal rights as a consumer. A little bit of knowledge can go a long way to protecting you from scams and excessive fees.
The Law and Profeco
In 1976, Mexico passed the Federal Consumer Protection Law (Ley Federal de Protección al Consumidor) with the goal of protecting consumers across Mexico. The legislation also created the Procuraduría Federal del Consumidor (Profeco), a government agency tasked with enforcing the law and investigating possible violations.
Profeco has the authority to close a business and/or levy fines. You may have seen their suspension stickers on businesses around Quintana Roo. If not, this is what they look like:
The law has been expanded quite a bit since 1976 and now totals 96 pages. If you are interested in reading it in its entirety, and you can read Spanish, here is a link:
Common Violations by Category
There are a lot of activities on the part of a vendor or service provider that may constitute a violation. The following are some of the most common violations according to Profeco:
1) Prices must be exhibited within view of the consumer or provided in the menu
This is probably the most common violation. If a vendor can only quote you the prices verbally, that is a violation. All prices must be in writing.
2) Tips cannot be made mandatory or included in the price (this includes a “service fee”)
You should always inspect your bill carefully. If they add the tip or a surcharge for service, that is violation. It is important to note that tipping is customary in Mexico, and you are encouraged to tip waiters and bartenders.
3) Restaurants and bars cannot make getting a table dependent on buying something
This is most common in bars and night clubs. Some businesses will require you to buy a bottle of something in order to get a table. This is a violation.
4) An establishment cannot have minimum consumption requirements
Some businesses require you to purchase at least two drinks or spend a minimum. This is a violation.
5) Providers must honor promotions and exhibited prices
Some vendors may refuse to honor promotional prices or may change the price at the last minute due to some “unforeseen circumstances”. This is a violation.
6) Providers cannot discriminate based on national origin, gender, sexual preference, race, or disability.
Some vendors may refuse to honor a promotional offer or even charge you more because you are a foreigner. This is a violation.
7) Exhibited prices for goods and services must be the total price to be paid
This means that the price must already include all taxes, commissions, interest, insurance or any other charge that the person may be required to pay. In a nutshell, you pay only whats on the price tag or advertisement.
More on this from Profeco: Comunicado 150
Note: Some readers have sent me messages reporting that businesses had charged them additional tax; however, in most cases they were mistaken.
Pictured below is a receipt that I obtained when I bought a new printer cartridge. The total price that was displayed is the price that I was charged: $459 pesos (indicated with a yellow circle). Larger businesses often write on the receipt how much of that amount was tax. In this case it is indicated by the red square: $63.31.
As you can see, the tax was not added to the exhibited sales price; therefore, it is not a violation.
8) Prices must be exhibited in the national currency (pesos) although additional currency types may be included
If you go to a business or restaurant and the prices are only listed in dollars, that is a violation. The picture of the PROFECO suspension sticker above is from the Los Cerritos Beach Club & Surf located in Baja California. They had all prices listed exclusively in American dollars.
Frauds related to Mexican gas stations are notorious: shortchanging the customer; not putting the pump on zero before pumping; pumping part of the gas into a different container; and software hacks that make the pump dispense fewer liters. I could actually dedicate a very long blog to this topic, but for now I will just touch on the topic.
Profeco is the agency that is tasked with investigating any consumer violations related to gas stations. Profeco even conducts inspections of gas stations and measures the liters being dispensed to ensure the meter on the pump is accurate.
If you do feel that you have been a victim of a fraud at a gas station, request a receipt. Take some pictures of the pump and of the attendant, if possible. These will be beneficial when you file a complaint with Profeco.
Reporting a Violation
Profeco provides various methods to report a consumer violation:
1) Website: http://www.profeco.gob.mx
2) Phone: 55 68 87 22 and 01 800 468 87 22
3) Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
4) Mobile Application: PROFECO en 30 (available at the online store for your device)
In order to use the app, you will have to attach pics of your official identification when you are creating an account. Once you are approved, you will receive a password that will allow you to begin reporting violations.
The app allows has a drop down menu with common violations, a GPS button to give your exact location, and allows you to upload pictures. If you are reporting that the prices are not exhibited, it is a good idea to include a photograph of that.
Once you make a report, you will receive a tracking number via email so you can monitor the progress of your complaint and learn the outcome.
The app does have several drawbacks: 1) it only lists a few violations; 2) there is no block for “other”; 3) it is not possible to list multiple violations; and 4) it does not have a place to include comments or additional details. I prefer the email method.
Knowledge is power. Unscrupulous taxi drivers, service providers, and vendors are counting on your ignorance. When faced with a clear violation, advise the person that you aware of the law and that you plan to report the violation to Profeco. In my own experience this has been a very effective way to turn the situation around and receive fair treatment (and a fair price).
Of course this can be difficult if the service provider does not speak English and you do not speak Spanish. If you are a non-Spanish speaker, you should check out Is Someone Violating Your Consumer Rights in Mexico? Show Them Your Card. That post contains downloads of common violations in Spanish along with the maximum fine. All you have to do is present the information to the vendor via your cell phone or a printed copy.
Author: Qroo Paul
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