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Summary 

The Brazilian Constitution determines that federal law must regulate customer relations with government agencies.  A recently enacted law provides rules for the  exercise, protection, and defense of the rights of users of public services provided directly or indirectly by the public administration.  The rules apply to the Union, states, Federal District, and municipalities.

I. Constitutional Principle 

The right to information is guaranteed by article 5(XXXIII) of the Constitution, which determines that all persons have the right to receive information that is in their private interest, or in the collective or general interest, from public agencies.  Such information must be furnished within the period established by law, under penalty of liability, except for information whose secrecy is essential to the security of society and the state.[1] 

The Constitution further determines that the law must regulate the forms of user participation in the direct and indirect public administration, specifically regulating complaints concerning the provision of public services in general, assuring maintenance of services for participating users, and providing for periodic external and internal evaluations of the quality of services,[2] as well as user access to administrative registries and information about governmental acts, in keeping with the provisions of article 5(X) and 5(XXXIII) of the Constitution.[3]

In addition, it is the responsibility of the public administration, as provided by law, to maintain governmental documents and take measures to make them available for consultation.[4]

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II. Law No. 13, 460 of June 26, 2017 

A.  General Overview

On June 26, 2017, Brazil enacted Law No. 13,460, which establishes basic rules for the exercise, protection, and defense of the rights of users of public services provided directly or indirectly by the public administration.[5]  Law No. 13,460 applies to the direct and indirect public administration of the Union, states, Federal District, and municipalities, under the terms of article 37(§ 3)(I) of the Constitution.[6]  Article 2 of the Law defines “user” (natural person or company (pessoa jurídica) that benefits or uses public services), “public service,” “public administration,” “public agent,” and “user opinions.”  Users’ access to information is governed by the terms of Law No. 12,527 of November 18, 2011.[7]

B.  Interaction with the Public

1.  Publication of Services Rendered

Each branch and agency of the government must publish annually a  report on the public services rendered, which must specify the bodies or entities responsible for their accomplishment and the administrative authority to which they are subordinated or bound.[8]

Users of public services have the right to participate in monitoring the provision and evaluation of such services,[9] and access to the public agent or body responsible for receiving user opinions (manifestações).[10]

2.  User Services Letters

The organs and entities encompassed by Law No. 13,460 must provide a User Services Letter (Carta de Serviços ao Usuário)[11] informing users about the services provided by the agency or entity, the forms of access to these services, and the agency/entity’s commitments and standards of quality for service to the public.[12]  The letter must provide clear and precise information regarding each of the available services,[13] and detail the commitments and standards of service related to receiving and responding to users’ opinions, among other things.[14]  The letter must be updated regularly and permanently disclosed by way of publication on the website of the organ or entity.[15]  The specific regulations of each branch and agency of the government must provide for implementation of the letter’s commitments.[16]

3.  Opinions of Users of Public Services

In order to guarantee their rights, users may present opinions before the public administration about the rendering of public services.[17]  Such opinions must be addressed to the ombudsman’s office (Ouvidoria) of the responsible organ or entity and must identify the person.[18]  The identification of the person may not contain any requirement that prevents his or her opinion.[19]  Any requirements relating to the reasons for the presentation of opinions before the ombudsman’s office are forbidden.[20]  In the absence of an ombudsman’s office, the user may submit statements directly to the agency or entity responsible for executing the service and to the body or entity to which the agency/entity is subordinated.[21]  The opinion may be submitted by electronic means, conventional correspondence, or verbally, in which case it should be put in writing.[22]  Under no circumstance, may the receipt of opinions formulated under the terms of Law No. 13,460 be refused, under penalty of liability of the public agent.[23]

4.  The Ombudsman’s Offices

Ombudsman’s offices have the following primary duties, without prejudice to others established in a specific regulation:

I - to promote user participation in the public administration, in cooperation with other user protection entities;

II - to monitor the rendering of services, in order to ensure their effectiveness;

III - propose improvements in the rendering of services;

IV - to assist in the prevention and correction of acts and procedures incompatible with the principles established in Law No. 13,460;

V - to propose the adoption of measures for the defense of user rights, in compliance with the provisions of Law No. 13,460;

VI - to receive, analyze and forward to the competent authorities the opinions, along with the handling and effective conclusion of those opinions; and

VII - to promote the adoption of mediation and conciliation between the user and the public body or entity, without prejudice to other competent bodies.[24]

According to article 14 of Law No. 13,460, to achieve its objectives, ombudsman’s offices must:

I - receive, analyze and respond, through proactive and reactive mechanisms, to the opinions sent by users of public services; and

II - prepare annually a management report, which must consolidate the information mentioned in item I, and, based on [that information], indicate failures and suggest improvements in the rendering of public services.[25]

At a minimum, the management report required by article 14 must indicate the following:

I - the number of opinions received in the previous year;

II - the reasons for the opinions;

III - the analysis of recurrent points; and

IV - the measures adopted by the public administration in the solutions presented.[26]

The management report must be referred to the highest authority of the organ to which the reporting ombudsman’s office belongs and be made available on the internet.[27]

The ombudsman’s office must forward the final administrative decision to the user within thirty days of receiving the user’s opinion, which may be extended once, if justified, for an equal period of time.[28]  Once the time deadline has been met, the ombudsman’s office may request information and clarification directly from public agents of the organ or entity to which it is linked, and such requests must be answered within twenty days, which may be extended only once for an equal period of time.[29]

Specific normative acts of each branch and agency of the government must provide for the organization and operation of its ombudsman’s office.[30]

5.  User’s Council

Without prejudice to other forms provided for by legislation, the participation of users in the monitoring of the provision and evaluation of public services must be done through user councils.[31]  User councils are advisory bodies with the following responsibilities:

I - to monitor the rendering of services;

II - to participate in the evaluation of services;

III - to propose improvements in the rendering of services;

IV - to contribute in the definition of guidelines for the appropriate service to the user; and

V - to monitor and evaluate the performance of the ombudsman.[32]

Specific regulations of each branch and agency of the government must provide for the organization and operation of user’s councils.[33]

C.  Evaluation of Public Services

The public bodies and entities covered by Law No. 13,460 must evaluate the following aspects of services rendered:

I - user satisfaction with the service rendered;

II - quality of care provided to the user;

III - fulfillment of the commitments and deadlines defined for the rendering of services;

IV - number of user opinions; and

V - measures adopted by the public administration for the improvement and development of the rendering of services.[34]

The evaluation must be carried out by satisfaction surveys done at least every year, or by any other means that guarantees statistical significance to the results.[35]

The results of the evaluation must be published in full on the website of the agency or entity, along with the agency/entity’s ranking compared to entities with the highest incidence of user complaints in the previous year.  The evaluation serves as a method of reorienting and adjusting the services provided, in particular regarding the fulfillment of the commitments and quality standards of service disclosed in the User Services Letter.[36]

Specific regulations of each branch and agency of the government must provide for the evaluation of the effectiveness and levels of satisfaction of users.[37]

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Prepared by Eduardo Soares
Senior Foreign Law Specialist
October 2017


[2] Id. art. 37(§ 3)(I). 

[3] Id. art. 37(§ 3)(II).  Article 5(X) determines that personal intimacy, private life, honor, and reputation are inviolable, guaranteeing the right to compensation for pecuniary or moral damages resulting from the violation thereof.

[4] Id. art. 216(§ 2).

[5] Lei No. 13.460, de 26 de Junho de 2017, art. 1, http://www.planalto.gov.br/ccivil_03/_ato2015-2018/2017/ lei/L13460.htm, archived at https://perma.cc/7DAH-LPW4.  Lei No. 13,460 will enter into force, as of its publication, in (I) 360 days for the Union, the states, the Federal District, and the municipalities with more than 500,000 inhabitants;(II) 540 days for municipalities with between 100,000 and 500,000 inhabitants; and (III) 720 days for municipalities with less than 100,000 inhabitants.  Id. art. 25.

[6] Id. art. 1(§ 1). 

[7] Id. art. 2.  Law No. 12,527 of November 18, 2011, provides for the procedures to be followed by the Union, states, Federal District, and municipalities, in order to ensure access to information under articles 5(XXXIII), 37(§ 3)(II), and 216(§ 2) of the Constitution.  Lei No. 12.527, de 18 de Novembro de 2011, art. 1, http://www.planalto.gov.br/ ccivil_03/_ato2011-2014/2011/lei/ l12527.htm, archived at https://perma.cc/3T4J-GZXF.  Law No. 12,527 is regulated by Decree No. 7,724 of May 16, 2012, which, under the federal executive branch, regulates the procedures for ensuring access to information and for the classification of information under access restrictions, observing the degree and terms of confidentiality, according to the provisions of Law 12,527.  Decreto No. 7.724, de 16 de Maio de 2012, art. 1, http://www.planalto.gov.br/ccivil_03/_ato2011-2014/ 2012/Decreto/D7724.htm#art76, archived at https://perma.cc/6J9L-SE55.

[8] Lei No. 13.460, de 26 de Junho de 2017, art. 3.

[9] Id. art. 6(I). 

[10] Id. art. 6(VI)(c).  Article 2(V) of Law No. 13,460 defines “user opinions” as complaints, suggestions, compliments, and other statements of users whose purpose is the provision of public services and the conduct of public agents in the provision and supervision of such services.

[11] Id. art. 7.

[12] Id. art. 7(§ 1). 

[13] Id. art. 7(§ 2).  Article 7(§ 2) provides a list with the minimum information that must be presented to the user in the services letter.

[14] Id. art. 7(§ 3)(IV). 

[15] Id. art. 7(§ 4). 

[16] Id. art. 7(§ 5). 

[17] Id. art. 9.

[18] Id. art. 10.

[19] Id. art. 10(§ 1). 

[20] Id. art. 10(§ 2). 

[21] Id. art. 10(§ 3). 

[22] Id. art. 10(§ 4). 

[23] Id. art. 11.

[24] Id. art. 13 (all translations by author).

[25] Id. art. 14.

[26] Id. art. 15.

[27] Id. art. 15(Sole para.).

[28] Id. art. 16.

[29] Id. art. 16(Sole para.).

[30] Id. art. 17.

[31] Id. art. 18.

[32] Id. art. 18(Sole para.).

[33] Id. art. 22.

[34] Id. art. 23.

[35] Id. art. 23(§ 1). 

[36] Id. art. 23(§ 2). 

[37] Id. art. 24.