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Panama and Consumer Protection in the Digital Era

Many companies in Panama launch their digital portals to offer products and services without first verifying that they comply with the applicable regulations on consumer protection. This article seeks to offer general guidelines on these standards for those companies that operate in the digital world.

  • What Panamanian legal norms are related to consumer protection in the digital era?
  • Law 45 of 2007, which establishes norms on consumer protection and competition defense and dictates another provision.
  • Executive Decree 46 of 2009, by which provisions of Law 45 of 2007 are regulated.
  • Law 81 of 2019, on protection of personal data.
  • The Criminal Code.
  • Are Law 45 of 2007 and its regulations applicable to companies that do not have a domicile in Panama?
  • Yes, they are applicable when the contract or transaction is perfected in Panama.
  • According to Law 45 of 2007 and its regulations, what provisions must the company that offers its products or services over the Internet observe?
  • For each product or service that is offered, all the information and characteristics of the product (for example, price) must be clearly, completely, free of error, and truthfully, provided, as well as any information necessary for its proper consumption or use, including details about the warranty and deadlines for filing claims.
  • All advertising displayed on the digital platform must be true and free from deception.
  • The company must keep the consumer informed of the status of the requested service, in the event that they have contracted a specific service.
  • An invoice or proof of purchase must be provided to the consumer, in compliance with current tax regulations. It should be noted that in Panama the use of electronic invoices has not been approved.
  • The company cannot make price differences between cash payments and payments by credit or debit card.
  • Does the consumer have any special rights within a home sale, according to Law 45 of 2007 and its regulations?
  • Yes, the consumer has the right to revoke his purchase within a period of three business days, counted from the date on which the purchase is made or the good is delivered, whichever occurs last.
  • What mechanisms does a consumer have to enforce their rights contained in Law 45 of 2007 and its regulations?
  • The consumer can file a complaint with the Authority for Consumer Protection and Competition Defense (“ACODECO”), which must be notified by means of a summons to the company. ACODECO can only decide on complaints whose value does not exceed US$5,000.00, except if the complaint is about motor vehicles, whose value can be up to US$30,000.00.
  • If the claim exceeds the amounts indicated above, the consumer must file a claim against the company before the civil circuit courts created for this purpose.
  • Could a class action be brought against a company that offers its products or services online, according to Law 45 of 2007 and its regulations?
  • Yes, although the Law does not expressly contemplate it, this would be viable if the company has its headquarters or a branch in Panama and offers its products or services to consumers in Panama.
  • Which companies are obliged to abide by Law 81 of 2019?
  • Any company whose databases are in Panama, that store personal data of Panamanians or people from other countries, or whose data controller is domiciled in Panama.
  • What rights would a consumer have under Law 81 of 2019?
  • Under Law 81 of 2019, a consumer has the right to access, rectify, cancel, oppose, and transfer their information that appears in a database.
  • Can the data controller transfer a consumer’s information freely?
  • No, the person in charge must have the prior, informed, and unequivocal consent of the owner of the information.
  • Is Law 81 of 2019 in force?
  • This Law will come into force as of March 29th, 2021.
  • What crimes does the Panama Criminal Code contemplate that are related to consumer protection in the digital era?
  • The crimes related to this matter are classified as “crimes against free competition and the rights of consumers and users” and “crimes against computer security”, and all are punishable by imprisonment. These are some of the criminal behaviors contained in the Code:
    • Including false information in offers and advertising of products, so that serious harm to the consumer can be caused.
    • Improperly using or entering a database.
    • Unduly seizing, copying, using or modifying the data in transit or stored in a database.
Author(s)

Luigi Iovane de Puy

Junior Associate

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