Yesterday I received an email from a lady called Nancy. She and her husband John had been sorely ripped off by the DREAMS CASH AND CARRY  at C.C. Troya in Playa de Las Americas. The salesman basically defrauded them out of £700 and did so in a very sophisticated and calculating manner. One of his techniques was to show the camera he sold them on a website where it was selling for £1200. Now Nancy knows that the website was itself a con for the camera they bought has an RPP of £100.

Nancy and John have only recently returned home to the UK. Just days ago, in fact. Surely something could be done to help them? First of all, I sent them a link to a very good overview of your consumer rights when paying by credit card.

WHICH – Your rights when paying by credit card

I also advised them of the standard advice given out to tourists in these situations. In the first place and if you are still in Tenerife, you can visit the shop and ask to sign a Ojos de Reclamation form. Every shop must have this available and upon filling out the form, the shopkeeper keeps a copy and you take a copy and send it of  to the address noted.

For whatever modicum of satisfaction Nancy and John may have got from that exercise they were no longer in Tenerife so what else could they do?  There are three places that tourists are advised to contact with consumer complaints:

  • the Tourist office
  • the Consumer Complaints Department
  • the local police

Years ago, there was a Consumer Complaints officer in the Cultural Centre. I had his email address and used to send on emails like Nancy’s to him. Having changed computers and what not I have mislaid his address so I telephoned the Tourist Office to see if they could give it to me.

At first on picking up the call the woman at the Tourist Office, whom I shall call Nieve,  had a nice chirpy voice. Just right for dealing with dozy tourists, I guess. However, the moment I explained the situation I could feel  icicles creeping up the handset.  Boy, could you tell that Nive was sick to death off rip off reports.

When I asked her for an email that Nancy could send her story too, Nieve said there was none. When I asked her about the Consumer Protection Officer in the Cultural Centre  Nieve told me that office won’t do anything at all as it has been taken over by SAC (Servicio de Atención al Ciudadano).

The rest of the conversation would have made a funny sketch about customer services…

“So there is no consumer protection in Tenerife?” I asked her.

“No!”

“But what about the Hojos de Reclamation?”

“Que?”

“You know, the reclamation forms that you can sign in the shops when you want to make a complaint. What happens to them? Where do they go?”

“To the government”

Aha! I thought at that point that I had got her. Surely they were being sent to some central depository of consumer complaints. “To which department of the government?”

“Reclamation!”

Nieve was getting annoyed with me. Obviously I was far too dense to get her point that there was nothing to be done if as a tourist you are ripped off in Tenerife so she decided to make it crystal clear.

“If you go to another country and you buy something not good – what can you do? Nothing! It is no different here in Tenerife.”

“Actually if a tourist in Britain had been ripped off there are places they can contact which would help them.  So, you are telling me there is nothing to be done?”

“Yes.”

“But it is terrible publicity for Tenerife for tourists to come here and get ripped off. What happened to Tenerife Amable? (A previous goverment tourism promotion campaign which meant Friendly Tenerife).

Nieve banged on a bit more about how buying a camera anywhere in the world is very much a case of buyer beware and basically if you get ripped off that’s just hard cheddar (though not in those exact words).

I had already told Nieve that Nancy had contacted me through my website. By that time I was getting as tired of her as she clearly was of me. I told her I was surprised at her attitude and said, “So I should just say on my website that if you are ripped off in Tenerife there is nothing you can do?”

“Right!”

So there you have it. If you lose your shirt in Tenerife in cowboy camera shops don’t bother contacting the Consumer Complaints Office or filling out the reclamation form in the shop. Also don’t expect the Tourism Office to stand behind you in any way, shape or form. Clearly the millions spent on marketing Tenerife as a prime destination only went towards getting you here, not to providing any sort of infrastructure to look after your interests after you arrived.

Whatever you do, please do not call Nieve. I think she might just tell you where to put your camera.