Oral and written service
Oral service, in person and on the telephone, and written service, by correspondence and by e-mail
What does the law say?
Companies must be ready to attend to customers in Catalan, both orally and in writing (article 128.1 of Law 22/2010 on the Catalan Consumer Code and article 34 of the Statute of Autonomy, on the duty of linguistic availability).
In the case of telephone contact, a company calling in the territory of Catalonia, regardless of its territorial origin, should address customers in Catalan first. Similarly, when customers calling a customer service telephone operating in Catalonia address the service in Catalan, the company should be able to attend to them.
Furthermore, the Law 18/2017, of August 1, on trade, services and fairs (Catalan), stablishes at its article 3 that people who start a commercial activity and provision of services —also those who do it as wage workers— must be in conditions to be able of attend the consumers when they speak in any of the official languages in Catalonia.
There are also various obligations in other Catalan-speaking territories:
- Balearic Islands: Law 3/1986 on linguistic normalization (article 2) provides for the right to address personnel in any establishment in Catalan.
- Valencian Community: Law 4/1983 on the use and teaching of Valencian recognizes the right to use Catalan. This right is also recognized by Law 1/2011 of 22 March, of the Government of the Valencian Community, approving the Statute of Consumers and Users of the Valencian Community. article 8 on linguistic rights specifies: Consumers have the right to use any of the official languages of the Valencian Community.
Like Catalan law, Andorran law establishes the obligation to attend to customers in Catalan (article 3 of the Law regulating the use of the official language, from the year 2000).
What would a good practice be in this regard?
- The company or establishment should have qualified personnel to guarantee the right to be served in Catalan immediately. In addition, all customer service personnel who attend to people either in person or on the telephone should be able to understand and speak Catalan.
- If the company contacts the customer, the default language to be used in Catalonia is Catalan. Once contact has been made, the language may be duly adapted to the customer's language if it is not Catalan.
- Neither should there be any problems in being served in Catalan in the case of more technical or specific services provided by a company, in person or on the telephone. The appropriate procedure should be as described in the preceding point.
- In personalized written services (through correspondence, documents, application forms, e-mail or websites), if customers address a company in Catalan, the company should always reply in this language at the very least.
- In non-personalized written service (for example, postal dispatches or advertising e-mails) or when the company addresses customers without knowing their linguistic preferences, Catalan should always be used. If the company wishes to offer a more closely adapted service according to the language chosen by the customer, the customer should first be asked, in Catalan or in multiple languages, to choose their language.
- If the written dispatch is the same for the entire Spanish territory (although this is not the preferred option), a multilingual format that should always include Catalan is required.
- These options may also be adapted for dispatches or advertising through e-mails, websites or the social media.
There are many online tools and resources that facilitate a basic knowledge of spoken and written Catalan language. The Consorci per la Normalització Lingüística, besides offering Catalan courses, features a number of specific tools for companies. Parla.cat is a self-study Catalan learning tool. Plataforma per la Llengua has also prepared some basic vocabulary in card form for waiters in Spanish, English, Chinese, Urdu and Arabic. You can find more linguistic tools here, and tools for learning Catalan here.