Have You Been Ripped Off

Have You Been Ripped Off? If you think you might be the victim of a crime or a fraud in Panama your first stop should be to talk to your lawyer. Then you should contact Panama’s National Consumer Protection and Defense of Competition Authority (Autoridad de Proteccion al Consumidor y Defensa de la Competencia), formerly know as CLICAC. I met last week with Pedro Meilan, who is the Administrator (boss) of this organization and discussed several of the problems facing expatriates in Panama. Specifically, contact Lic. Victor Shailer, who is the National Director for Consumer Protection. He has established an office that is run by Eva Alvarado, where they speak English and they are getting their motors started to be better prepared to handle this exact kind of case.

Sounds To Bad to be True? If you’re BS detector goes off then pay attention to it. While anything can be written into a contract, there are several things that have been thrown out by the courts (in cases that this organization has represented) which have been declared to be “abusive clauses” and are not legally binding. So, the words that are in your contract might not be the final word. The example the Director gave me was a clause they took to court that said (basically) “The buyer agrees never to take the seller to court in Panama, either civil or penal, for any reason.” Someone signed that contract, and the clause was tossed out. They are working on these kinds of things, and are actually eager to hear from you if you have been the victim of a fraud. Give them a shot.
Mediation First: The Consumer Protection Authority starts out by bringing the parties to the table, looking over the documents and contracts, and trying to get everyone to agree to a solution without having to go to court. Since 2 May 2006 more than $11 million dollars in disputes have come into their offices, and they have resolved $6.3 million without the need for lawsuits. They have legal authority on issues and disputes less than $2,500 in value, and they can flat-out order companies to pay restitution to consumers who have been the victim of a fraud for up to that amount. For cases or disputes with a value more than $2,500 the Authority will provide advice to the consumer, provide an attorney (if necessary) to help the consumer, and will go to court as a consumer advocate in cases where there is, in their judgement, an abusive business practice that is taking advantage of consumers. They have, for example, the legal authority to suspend the sale of an apartment while the dispute is being resolved to legally prevent the seller from selling the property out from under you.
The Consumer Protection Hot-line: Don’t underestimate the power of these guys to twist the arms of companies who would take advantage of you. Their consumer protection hot-line is 510-1300, and the person in charge of the bilingual international office is Lic. Eva Alvarado. Tell them you heard it from Don Winner and Panama-Guide.com. They also have several regional offices:
• Veraguas – 998-4302
• Herrera – 996-5623
• Cocle – 997-9423
• Colon – 475-0600
• Chiriqui – 775-2536
• Bocas del Toro – 758-5395
• Los Santos – 994-1791

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One Response to “Have You Been Ripped Off”

  1. richard says:

    Hello I have been in a court case over a land dispute that is a hands down nobrainer and it should be for the courts as well. There is so much coruption in panama no one will make a decesion, Now the courts want to send the case to another gov. agency and start all over. they have milked me dry. Is it worth my time to try to reach out to the pres. Martinelli or give up.

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