On 19 March 2021, the new Procedural Code for Consumer Relations (the “Code”) approved by the Legislature of the City of Buenos Aires was published on the Official Gazette and will enter into force on 19 April 2021.
The Code establishes a specific jurisdiction that will hear cases involving disputes in consumer relations, governed by the national rules on Consumer Protection and Fair Trading contained in articles 1092 and 1096 of the National Civil and Commercial Code, and any other general or special, national or local rules that apply to consumer relations.
The Code also provides for the creation of the Judicial Management Office, which will assist the judges of the jurisdiction to ensure the proper functioning of the Courts in general matters of consumer relations.
The main features of the new Code include:
- It establishes a conciliatory stage prior to the filing of the lawsuit, with the exception of executive proceedings, enforcement of judgements, actions against unlawful advertising, self-satisfying measures and actions for protection.
- The legal proceedings promoted shall be governed by the principle of gratuity and are exempt from the payment of court fees and all expenses incurred in the trial.
- There shall be no expiration of the instance and the judge must push the process forward.
- With regard to the duration of the proceedings, the Code provides for individual proceedings, an ordinary one with shorter deadlines and an extended one, which will be used for more complex cases where a greater production of evidence is required.
- Precautionary measures will be decreed and enforced without hearing the other party and shall be appealable by means of reconsideration or appeal.
- It establishes who has standing or when the intervention of the Public Prosecutor’s Office is mandatory in individual and collective consumer proceedings.
- The representation of the parties may be unified under the criteria of compatibility or similar criteria, right invoked or defenses.
- Evidence: confessional evidence will not be admissible in any case, it will be possible to incorporate documentary evidence on media other than paper provided that it can be authenticated, testimonial evidence will be admitted in ordinary proceedings through two witnesses, and five in extended proceedings. And the expert evidence must be requested at the hearing of the case.
- Punitive damages: the amount will not be quantified when the lawsuit is filed, but will be established on the basis of the evidence produced.
- The new jurisdiction will also cover the tax enforcement procedure of the enforceable sanctions of the Regulatory Body of Public Services and the Enforcement Authority.
Until the creation of the Consumer Court, the rules of this Code will be applied by the Courts of First Instance in Contentious and Tax Matters of the City of Buenos Aires in the relevant cases.
Finally, it should be noted that those cases pending or initiated prior to the entry into force of the Code will continue to be heard by the respective jurisdictions and courts.