Making a complaint in Portugal – Part 2

by Dr. Eduardo Serra Jorge [email protected]

In his new column, Lawyer Eduardo Serra Jorge from lawyers firm Eduardo Serra Jorge & Maria José Garcia – Sociedade de Advogados, R.L., will be addressing legal issues affecting foreign residents in Portugal.

Victims of a crime and injuries or of civil liability often do not know what to do. The emotional reactions are varied and the person may fear that the submission of a criminal or/and of a civil complaint is a lengthy process and with no apparent results.

When and where to complain?

In cases of contractual civil liability, the civil complaint must be made in the Civil Court of the area where the debtor has residence or where the obligation should be accomplished.

The general rule is that the creditor has 20 years to present the civil complaint.

Also, the Julgados de Paz are courts with special characteristics, competent to decide causes of low value (up to 5,000 Euros) of civil nature – excluding the ones that involve matters of Family Law, Law of Succession and Labour Law – quickly and at reduced costs.

They also have competence to decide compensation claims, when a criminal claim has not been presented.

In the proceedings initiated in the Julgados de Paz, the parties may be individuals or a group.

The claim may be presented anytime personally, by post, by fax or by email and the defence must be presented within 10 days of the summons.

In the Julgados de Paz, the parties must appear in person.

The initial request and the defence may be presented in writing, in proper form, or verbally in the Julgados de Paz, but the pleadings will only be accepted after the payment of the respective costs.

The time for the resolution of the conflict in the Julgados de Paz – since the presentation of the initial request until the decision – is about a month-and-a-half.

Finally, Consumer Arbitration is an institutional arbitration, promoted by private non-profitable associations that create arbitration centres for the resolution of consumer disputes concerning the acquisition of goods and services.

The Arbitration Centres are entities that, by extrajudicial means such as the mediation, conciliation and arbitration, promote the resolution of disputes:

• Based on consumer conflicts

• Arising from acquisitions done in the respective territorial area

Issues considered consumer conflicts are ones that arise from the acquisition of goods and services, for a non-professional use, provided by an individual person or a company that exercises an economic activity with professional nature.

The Arbitration Centres have territorial competence established according to geographical areas of the municipalities or of its associations.

In the most part of the Arbitration Centres, the Arbitration Court may only intervene on the resolution of consumer conflicts whose value does not exceed the legally established for the jurisdiction of the First Instance Courts – 5,000 Euros.

In mediation there are no limits for the claims.

In the Arbitration Centres, the proceeding is voluntarily, easy, fast, free and effective.

The decisions ruled by the Arbiter are enforceable, just as the decisions from the judicial courts.

The agreements reached in conciliation and the decisions ruled in arbitration trial are binding.

The arbitration can only take place when the parties agree to submit the dispute to the Arbitration Court.

The claim must be founded and all the documents asked by the Arbitration Centre must be delivered, namely the contract of acquisition of the good or of the service, if it exists. In some Arbitration Centres, there are proper forms for the presentation of the claim.

The term between the presentation of the claim and the decision of the case is 30 to 60 days.

Dr Eduardo Serra Jorge is founding member, senior partner and CEO of lawyers firm Eduardo Serra Jorge & Maria José Garcia – Sociedade de Advogados, R.L., created in 1987.

He can be contacted at his Faro office at Gaveto das Ruas Pedro Nunes e José de Matos, 5 R/C, on telephone +351 289 829 326, Fax. +351 289 829 327 or email: [email protected]. Alternatively, please visit www.esjmjgadvogados.com