The story began during the first lockdown in 2020, when Steffen Ryborg prepaid an annual subscription to play golf at two golf courses (Silves and Alto) worth €1,699 per year. After that, the country was hit by the pandemic and several lockdowns followed. Despite his annual membership, the golf courses were closed and the golfer was not able to enjoy the days he had paid for.
Steffen Ryborg, who was a member with Pestana for nine years, asked for his money back. “For some years I have been a subscriber to Pestana, which offers golf all year round. During these lockdown periods, I have held meetings with Pestana and written countless emails to get my money back for the periods when I have not been able to use my membership - all without success. Therefore, I ended up choosing to take the case to the consumer complaints system in Portugal, which was finally settled by arbitration”, he said.
As a result, the Algarve Consumer Arbitration Centre, on 23 February, ruled in favour of this consumer and Gramacho Carvoeiro Golf was ordered to pay €595.81 as compensation for the days when Steffen Ryborg was unable to play.
According to the court's decision: "Due to the mandatory lockdown and consequent closure of spaces intended for sport and leisure, the companies that provide these services have not been able to provide the service to which they are obliged by contract and although this breach is not their fault, customers cannot be obliged to pay the corresponding price, therefore, the monthly fee should not be charged.”
Doing the maths, this means that “paid subscription is divided by 365 days, the result obtained is multiplied by the days when there has been a lockdown. Calculations of course apply to both the year 2020 and the year 2021”, he explained.
Despite this victory in court, Steffen Ryborg will not receive the full amount he asked for. As he was unable to play both in 2020 and 2021 due to successive lockdowns, he asked for the amount of €2,276.00 for 100 days in 2020 and 90 in 2021, in which, for the same reasons, he has not been able to use the golf courses he paid for. However, after the production of judicial evidence, he was awarded €595.81.
“No good consumer protection”
All in all, Steffen Ryborg criticises consumer protection in Portugal, saying that it is not effective as it should be. “There is no good consumer protection in Portugal, all claims must be resolved in an arbitration court, and here a lawyer (that could be expensive) would be helpful unless you stand up in court and preach your views”.
Furthermore, the golfer said that during the lockdown “businesses can be supported through various government aid packages, but as a consumer, you don’t have that option, here you will have to ask companies to refund prepaid money for periods when you are prevented from using their service,” he said.
The Portugal News contacted Gramacho Carvoeiro Golf, but the company refused to make any comments regarding the case.