DECO, the Portuguese Association for Consumer Protection, first began on 12 February 1974. Since then, DECOis the organisation that gives consumers a voice, represents and defends them.

Twenty four years later, DECOdecided to increase the scope of its protection and proximity to residents of the Algarve, creating the delegation of DECOAlgarve, which was created on 13 July 2000, with the aim of informing and defending the rights of Algarve consumers, contributing to improving consumer protection policy in the region of the Algarve.

DECOAlgarve has the support of technicians specialised in resolving consumer conflicts, support in situations of excessive indebtedness and in the education of consumers throughout their lives.

In the Algarve the team is composed of five professionals. The oldest one is Ana Martins who is in the front office. In the Projects and Innovation department is Sandra Rodrigues and in the legal department are the jurists Susana Correia, who is coordinator, and Pedro Gomes and Tania Neves.

Sandra Rodrigues describes the process starting when a consumer requests support from DECO: “To begin with, the contact is with our colleague Ana Martins, then the person is then passed through to have an appointment with a jurist where they can then present all the facts and documents that exist about the situation and from there the jurist will make a first contact with the entity in question. In that first contact with the complained entity, the situation exposed by the consumer is presented to the complained entity and we ask for an answer”.

Then different situations can follow, depending on the behaviour of the entity which has the complaint against them. “There are entities that do not respond and we have to move to arbitration. There are other situations in which the company hears that the consumer is going to Deco and they solve it quickly. We also have situations in which if the jurist sends some letters to the complained entity the situation ends up being resolved and sometimes when there are more difficult situations, meetings between the consumers, the jurist and the entity can be arranged in order to solve situations”, said Sandra Rodrigues, noting a success rate of 88 percent.

To have access to legal advice consumers don’t need to be a member, although members can have legal advice without paying. Members receive Deco Proteste’s magazines at home and have more advantages. However, Sandra Rodrigues guarantees that the appointments are accessible to everyone, including non-members with cost of €15 and only for the first consultation, with the following ones then being for free. Also consumbers who live in the municipalities where there is a DECOprotocol do not have to pay for an appointment, even if they are not a member. These municipalities are: Tavira, Olhão, Faro, Loulé, Lagoa, Lagos and Portimão.

Appointments are currently being made by telephone or video conference due to new restrictions to control the pandemic.

In addition to contributing to the resolution of problems, providing legal support to consumers and information about their rights, Deco Algarve also counts on feedback from all consumers in order to put pressure on the organs of power, namely in the Assembly of the Republic. According to the President of Deco Algarve, Fernando Brás Messias, “Deco has approximately half a million members and that has an influence on political power”.

Environmental sustainability is a topic that has the commitment of the association. “Regarding the environment, we have a situation that still exists and that probably Deco Algarve will take some steps in due to the lack of basic sanitation in urban agglomerations. It is also verified in large cities, Faro and other cities, that basic sanitation is not enough in urban areas, this has an environmental impact. This is a subject that we will possibly have to address”, informed the president.

The environment is a concern for Deco Algarve, which has created many projects to face the environmental sustainability problem. The “Plastic in sight! Get rid of this species!” was one of the most recent projects developed by DECO Algarve. This was an environmental awareness campaign with CCMAR and UALG. The objective was highlighting the situation to the consumers of the impacts of plastics on the environment and more specifically on our coast, including the Ria Formosa. “The impact of plastics on the environment in the Ria Formosa is already visible”, alerted Sandra Rodrigues.

“We wanted to alert consumers to the need to act, promoting changes in consumption habits and treatment of household waste. Through the use of images of the region, displayed in outdoor advertising, where the effects of plastic were sought and the dissemination of tips, ideas, on how to reduce the excessive use of plastic in their daily lives, to sensitise consumers”, explained Deco Algarve.

In recent years, several projects related to energy efficiency have also been developed, such as “Fatura Amiga” “Energia Fantasma”, “ACT4ECO” and “STEP”, among others, with the objective of helping Portuguese families to have less expenses with as their energy bills (electricity and gas), improving insulation of houses and their environmental performance. In “Fatura Amiga”, Deco explains how we could read the electricity bill. “In some cases bills are very difficult to interpret because there are many amounts and people cannot always interpret exactly what the amounts are being charged”, explained Sandra Rodrigues.

Furthermore, the most recent project with the European Union “Act for Eco” wants to help people improve the insulation of their homes. In the first stage, the exchange of windows, structural improvement of houses to achieve improved energy efficiency and tofind heating solutions more suitable for housing.

The association has as its flag the promotion of more conscious and sustainable consumption, highlighting the need to not waste water, and find, whenever possible, solutions with less impact on the environment and on the pocket of all consumers.

“We want to be closer to all consumers, support them in all their choices and decisions and ensure that they are not left without an answer to their problems. With the support of The Portugal News we are sure that we will reach other audiences and will be even stronger”, concluded Deco Algarve.