Rules governing the Call Center activity are not harmonized within the EU raising compliance issues to any Call Center operated through outsourcing, either nearshore or offshore. In fact, Companies that make Call Centers available to the consumers – and consequently the Call Centers providers – must obey the legal requirements of each and all jurisdictions in which they operate.

In Portugal, providing information and support as well as promoting products or services to the consumer through a Call Center is subject to several demanding rules on answering, making and recording calls.

Although this regime is effective since November, 30 of 2009 there are still many rules that are circumvented by the majority of the Companies that make Call Centers available to their consumers as well as Call Centers providers.

General Rules

Firstly, the Call Center service must have the necessary human and technical means in order to be able to fulfil its tasks.

Secondly, the access to the service or information cannot be conditioned by prior supply of personal data that is not strictly necessary to handle the request.  Nevertheless, the confidentiality of the data must be ensured and should only be accessed by authorised users.

Thirdly, the Call Center should work at least within a pre-establish schedule during daylight time with personalized answering. Automatic service should only apply out of the pre-establish schedule.

Finally, the telephone number and the operating schedule with personalized answering should appear clearly visible in all commercial communications, including labelling of products, correspondence, websites, advertising, etc.

Prohibited practices

The following practices are prohibited:

  1. Transferring calls to other numbers that have an additional charge, unless it is done with the consumer’s express consent;
  2. Advertising while the consumer is waiting to be answered;
  3. Include the consumer’s telephone number used to make the call in the database;

Rules on answering Calls 

There are also several rules on answering calls that need to be fulfilled:

  1. Calls must be answered by order of incoming;
  2. Consumers should be answered within 60 seconds, after which the consumer should be able to leave a message with his contact as well as the purpose of the call and be called back within the next 2 working days;
  3. In case there is an electronic menu, there should not be more than 5 initial options being one of them getting in contact with an operator. For services performed overtime or periodically, one option must be termination of the service;
  4. Whenever the consumer requests the termination of the service, a confirmation of the service termination must be sent to the consumer, on a durable medium and within 3 working days.

In the first 90 days, the burden of proof of the respect of the above referred rules falls on the Companies that make Call Centers available to the consumers.

Rules on Placing Calls

Likewise, placing calls is subject to the following rules:

  1. Unless otherwise previously agreed, calls should only be made between 9 am and 10 pm;
  2. The operator should in the beginning of the call identify himself and the supplier or provider on whose behalf he is making the call as well as the purpose of the call;
  3. Whenever the consumer does not want to pursue the call, the operator should hang up the call politely.

Rules on providing information

When providing information to the consumer, the following principles should be bear in mind: legality, transparency, good-faith, efficiency, effectiveness, promptness and cordiality.

Additionally, the following rules should be followed:

  1. The information should be clear, objective and the language used should be accessible;
  2. The information should be provided in Portuguese;
  3. Consumers should be answered immediately and no later than 3 working days, save in duly substantiated cases;
  4. When the information the consumer is looking for can only be granted by another department, the call must be transferred in less than 60 seconds or in alternative the operator should provide the direct number of such department;
  5. The call should not be hanged up before the information or the service requested is provided or concluded.

Call Recording

In general and as a result of the right to confidentiality of the communications, recording of calls is not allowed, except in certain cases legally foreseen, pursuant to the Law n.º 41/2004, of August 29 on the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in electronic communications.

Because the call recording involves processing of sensitive data in order to be lawful it must be previously authorized by the Portuguese Data Protection Authority (PDPA).

Nevertheless, the PDPA only authorizes call recording for the following purposes:

  1. within a contractual relationship in order to obtain evidence of the commercial transactions;
  2. monitoring the quality of the Call Center service;
  3. emergency situations.

In the first case, prior and informed consent both from the consumer and the Call Center operators is required. Moreover, it should also be made in the course of lawful business practices. The controller should be the entity with which the consumer has a contractual relationship. The retention period of data is 90 days.

In the second case, likewise prior and informed consent both from the consumer and the Call Center operators is required. However, other alternative means of monitoring (surveys, complaints, supervision) should be in place and another mean of communication without recording should also be made available to the Call Center operators, within the following limits:

  • call recording should be made in a random way;
  • no more than 5% of the calls should be recorded;
  • call recording should never be used to evaluate the performance of the Call Center operators.

The controller is the Call Center provider (employer of the Call Center operators) and the retention period of data is 30 days.

In both cases, special security measures should be implemented.

Sanctions

Failure to comply with any of the rules applicable to Call Centers and call recording may constitute an administrative offence subject to fines of up to € 44.890 and € 5.000.000, respectively, without prejudice of civil and, as far as call recording is concerned, criminal liability.