Mexico Life: Common Consumer Law Violations That Can Cost You Money

Source: Q-Roo Paul

As a retiree living in Mexico, I place a strong emphasis on saving money. I don’t mind paying a fair price for a product or service but I don’t want to be overcharged or cheated. I think most people feel the same way.

Prior to moving to Mexico, I was a deputy sheriff for 25 years and the law was very much a part of my life. When I moved to Mexico, I made it a point to familiarize myself with the law of the land and that included consumer law. Little did I know at the time that my knowledge of the consumer law would save me money down the road.

Consumer Law

Mexico places a lot of emphasis on protecting consumer rights and investigating violations. Mexico’s consumer law is an impressive 96 page document called Ley Federal de Protección al Consumidor. For those legal aficionados out there, click HERE to read it in its entirety.

For the rest of you, here are four requirements of the law that you should know when eating out or shopping in Mexico:

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 a violation.

It’s important to note that tipping is customary in Mexico, and you are encouraged to tip waiters and bartenders. The point here is that they cannot make it mandatory and add it to the bill.

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Example of 10% service fee illegally added

3) 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 (Spanish): 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.

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As you can see, the tax was not added to the exhibited sales price; therefore, it is not a violation.

4) 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.

This is an important one for retirees living in Mexico — especially my Canadian friends — who don’t want to have to pay more just because the U.S. dollar is up that day.

The picture below is of a government suspension sticker placed on Los Cerritos Beach Club & Surf located in Baja California. They had all prices listed exclusively in American dollars. This violation is very common in tourist areas.

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“No se exhiben precios y/o tarifas en moneda nacional” (Prices and/or fees not shown in the national currency)

What To Do If You Encounter a Violation

If you spend much time in Mexico, it’s inevitable that you will encounter a violation. How you handle it will depend on the particular set of circumstances but here are a few of your options:

1. Make an Official Complaint

Violations of the consumer law are investigated by a government agency called Procuraduría Federal del Consumidor, or Profeco for short. They have the authority to suspend the business and levy fines of over a million pesos per violation.

You can get additional information about reporting and even chat live with an assesor from Profeco via their website http://www.gob.mx/profeco . One word of warning, it will be very challenging to go that route if your Spanish skills are weak.

I recommend that my fellow expats and tourists send their complaints directly to the following email address: extranjeros@profeco.gob.mx

2. Ignore It 

Once you know the law, you will see violations on a fairly regular basis. If it doesn’t affect you directly, you can choose to ignore it.

For example, if you’re in a store and the items don’t have prices on them, you can choose to ignore that fact and ask what the price is or just take your business elsewhere.

3. Speak to the Provider About the Violation

I only choose this route when it’s something that affects me directly; like an extra charge added to the bill at a restaurant. This has happened a few times since we moved to Mexico. In every case, the additional charges were removed after I told the manager it was illegal to add them.

Tip: It helps to mention Profeco during your conversation.

Let’s Wrap This Up

The old saying knowledge is power is especially true when it comes to the law. Knowing your rights as a consumer in Mexico will help protect you from being overcharged and protect your hard-earned pesos.

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About the Author

Q-Roo Paul
Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) is a former lieutenant from the Polk County Sheriff's Office in Florida. During his 25-year career, he received numerous commendations to include two of the agency's top honors: a Meritorious Service Medal and a Medal of Valor. In 2015, Paul retired and moved to Mexico with his wife. He now spends his days enjoying the Riviera Maya and blogging from the beach.

30 Comments on "Mexico Life: Common Consumer Law Violations That Can Cost You Money"

  1. Charles Benfante | January 10, 2017 at 9:04 am | Reply

    Where I live the Profeco office is right in downtown and a friend of mine who works that speaks English as well. I have never had to use them.

  2. We have often had a service charge added to the bill – we always mention that we notice it, and correct them when they say tax – explain it is the propiona and pay only the bottom line . It’s less than we would normally tip.

  3. We have had the tip included in the bill and thank to your advise I told them it was against the law to include it and they took it off :). I looked smart when my brother arrived for a week and found this with him while out for dinner lol.

  4. Very interesting! I loath businesses that list USD prices only and I don’t use their services. Thanks very much for your post.

  5. So a lot of times when you go into a store the don’t have prices marked or displayed. For example we went to Isla Mujeres and my wife found a liquor that she liked from the resort so I asked the guy how much for a small bottle (small) and lets say he said $30 (small bottle), so we got it down to $25 even though I thought it was to much anyways my wife liked it and that was enough for me to get it. We walked to the store down the street and with prices listed in big bold numbers on all the merchandise found an extra LARGE bottle for the same stuff and like I mentioned in big BOLD numbers it said basically $18usd (and of course in Pesos). So you probably guessed I was really annoyed for being taken advantage of. So my point is in all those rules (Which I was going to read but I need it translated to english) does a business owner have to display the cost of his goods or can he make up whatever price he likes depending on the person that comes in?

  6. Susan Allard Snider McKee | January 10, 2017 at 11:27 am | Reply

    Paul thank you for this information. I am so pleased I found and subscribed to your blog . Being a fellow Canadian I appreciate it even more. I belong to other groups but getting this information from a Canadian perspective if very helpful . Thank you so much.

  7. Thanks for this, it will be of great help when travelling! AND when we come down for our Discovery Weekend

  8. Does Profeco protect you against utility company’s?

  9. Bobbi Hutchins | January 10, 2017 at 11:43 am | Reply

    Thanks for the great information. We read your blog faithfully. My husband and I want to read and understand as much as we can on how to enjoy and live in Mexico. You really have helped us.

    Thanks again,
    Bobbi Hutchins

  10. Does this apply to weekly markets?

  11. Thank you Paul. I’ve been waiting for this, as I’m the lady that contacted you last week. Hopefully the photo of the receipt is clear. Now to send in our complaint.

  12. Thank you Paul!!!
    Very helpful.
    Have a great day.

  13. What about Real Esate?
    Why all the pricing is in US dollars?
    For example for Canadian buyer it’s a killer right now.

    • Profeco focuses on products and services primarily. Real estate seems to fall into a separate category and the only stipulation that I could find in their press releases is that the price of the property must be shown in Mexican pesos in the contract.

      I’m going to send them an email today requesting some clarification when it comes to real estate sales.

  14. “the price must already include all taxes”.
    As it is in the UK. It was the US that freaked me out, having to work out the tax myself if I wanted to offer exact change.

    • I think the U.S. should adopt something similar. I like knowing exactly what I’m supposed to be paying up front.

  15. What about services like hair salons ? Do they have to show their prices? Mine doesn’t and adds the services on a hand held calculator so I never know what I am being charged for. Thanks

  16. you’re in MEXICO, if these are your biggest problems count yourself lucky. The Mexicans are taken advantage of by their government all the time. Buy and read some books about how to treat Mexicans. Go back to Canada if you can’t adapt to the culture of the Mexicans.

  17. I live in the Progreso/Chicxulub area. What about all of those rich Mexican owners of summer homes along the Gulf who insist on getting their rents paid in cash in $US?

  18. Richard Newton | January 10, 2017 at 6:39 pm | Reply

    What about rental properties…vacation or otherwise…that are lusted in US dollars? For exanple Airbnb….are they illegally advertising when properties are listed only in dollars? Or for that matter real estate companies whose listings are in dollars?

  19. Paul you are paying way to much for hydro.

  20. Hi Paul
    Thank you for your reply regarding pricing of Real Estate on Riviera Maya in US dollars.
    Would you please devote one blog post to this subject?
    How does it compare to pricing in other parts of Mexico ?
    Are houses and condos in interior are also priced in Pesos?
    I ferl that the pricing should be shown at in pesos at the time of listing (as main currency and in US dollars alternatively based on the current exchange)
    Just my opinion.
    Frustrating, as US expats are not the only expats buying in Playa/ Tulum/ Cancun.
    Italian, Spaniards, other Europeans, Canadians, South Americans and many more.
    Plus many middle class Mexicans are buying recreational properties as well.
    I feel like the lot is forced to have to pay through the nose because of high US dollar. We are not buying in California or Florida but Mexico for a reason.
    Thank you again Paul for you detail investigation.
    Kind regards
    Kasha

  21. Living in Mexico, mostly Baja, for the past 6 years I’ve come to the conclusion that expats throw a lot more money around than they are wiling to admit and perceive themselves as “rich” because they have much nicer living accommodations here compared to the U.S. Amazing that many esp. the age 65 plus crowd still compute peso exchange on a 10/1 ratio. I’ve learned to avoid as many expat areas as possible because I know they will always be at least 20% higher with prices of everything than regular Mexican areas.

  22. Thank you, Paul. Just signed up for your blog. My husband and I are looking to retire in Yucatan, you information will be most helpful as we begin a new chapter in our lives

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