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.
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 on the bill (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.
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.
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.
5) The provider must honor their promotions and exhibited prices
This one is pretty simple. If the sign says “1/2 price beers all day” and they try to charge you full price, that’s a violation.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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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