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Consumer Rights in Essential Public Services

According to Law 23/96 of 26 July, essential public services in Portugal include water supply, electricity, natural gas, electronic communications, postal services, passenger transport, collection and treatment of waste water and management of solid urban waste.

When providing essential public services, the provider is obliged to act in good faith and take into account the interests of users and is therefore subject to certain rules of conduct towards them. If the provider does not act accordingly, consumers have certain rights, which are set out below by way of example.

  1. Can a service be suspended?

The provision of any essential public service, such as the supply of water or electricity, cannot be suspended without prior notice, unless there are force majeure events, such as a situation of high seismic activity. In the situation where the suspension of service is due to non-payment by the user, the suspension can only occur 20 days after the date of the notice.

  1. Are there minimum consumption and billing meters?

The legislation in force expressly forbids the imposition and charging of minimum consumptions. It is also forbidden to charge for the price, rental, amortization or periodic inspection of meters or other instruments for measuring the services used.

  1. Is the presentation of an invoice compulsory?

The user has the right to an invoice that duly specifies the values presented, which should be issued on a monthly basis and detail the services provided and the tariffs applied.

The demand for payment by the service provider to the user should be communicated in writing at least ten working days prior to the date set for payment.

  1. Is the demand for the payment of the price excluded?

The right of the service provider to receive the price of the service provided shall expire within six months of the date on which the service was provided.

The content of this information does not constitute any specific legal advice; the latter can only be given when faced with a specific case. Please contact us for any further clarification or information deemed necessary in what concerns the application of the law.

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