“Consumer disputes regarding low amounts are subject to arbitration or mediation when, at the express choice of consumers, they are submitted to the arbitration tribunal of the legally authorised consumer dispute arbitration centres”, reads the law that entered into force on 16 September and which defines consumer disputes of low amounts up to €5,000.

The law says that, in these disputes, the consumer must be notified, at the beginning of the process, that they can be represented by a lawyer or solicitor, and if they do not have the financial means to do so, they can apply for legal aid and be exempted from the prior payment of the justice fee.

The director of the automobile arbitration centre (CASA), Sara Mendes, in a statement to Lusa explained that, under a law of 2015 (law 144), which sanctions the lack of information from arbitration centres, companies that are not members of arbitration centres are, like the members, obliged to inform consumers of arbitration centres that are competent to resolve disputes arising from the services they provide or the goods they sell.

“Companies that do not adhere to CASA can obtain the necessary label to comply with legal obligations,” said Sara Mendes, recalling that this is the only court specialised in the automotive sector in Portugal and that it has received more than 90% of all disputes in the automotive sector that have been filed in more than 35 arbitration centers authorised by the Ministry of Justice.

“Agreements reached in the mediation process at CASA have the same value as a decision of a court of first instance”, Sara Mendes said.