By Nawara Fattahova

KUWAIT: Always read the contract and be sure of what services you are buying, and how you will pay for them, before you sign. Failure to do so can result in a tangled effort to cancel and you might end up paying long after you have terminated or stopped using the service.

Kuwait Times recently spoke with the consumer protection department at the Ministry of Commerce regarding this issue. According to the consumer protection department, many customers don't read the entire contract they sign, which gets them into trouble later.

When someone subscribes to a service like a satellite channel for instance and signs a contract, they are liable for the entire period of the contract, even if they want to stop the service early. "In this case, the service provider has the right to charge for the remaining period of the contract. Also, the terms of the contract are obligatory for the client, and in most contracts for such services, renewal is automatic, which means that even after the contract period ends, it renews automatically unless the client withdraws from it," said Abdullah from the consumer protection department call center.

Automatic renewal, however, is another matter. A contract can stipulate automatic renewal of a subscription service but must leave the customer the option of cancelling. "Automatic renewal can't be applied by any service provider unless clearly mentioned in the contract that was signed by the client. Even in this case, the client should be able to cancel it without delay," he added.

Different fields of services follow different institutions, where consumers can file their complaints. "For instance, any complaint related to telecommunication services should be filed at the Communication and Information Technology Regulatory Authority (CITRA), complaints against shipping companies at the General Administration of Customs, and against home businesses and selling items online by individuals who don't have commercial license should be made at the Interior Ministry's Cyber Crimes Department. For the services provided by a seller that doesn't have an agent in Kuwait, the only solution is filing a court case," explained Abdullah.

"In this case, the client can demand blocking their credit card so no further payments can be made to that service provider. The bank will then issue a new credit card for a fee of KD 15," said Ahmad from the call center of a local bank. Ahmad himself was a victim of another TV service provider.

"I signed a contract for one year. I wasn't even watching TV much. When the year ended, I still received a deduction message from my account. I called the company saying the contract had expired, but they replied that it has been renewed automatically. So I requested to cancel it, and they did cancel it. But the next month the monthly fee was deducted again from my account, and when I asked why, they told me the cancelation request takes two months to process, so I had to pay for two more months," Ahmad said.

Other banks have different charges for issuing a new credit card. "We frequently receive complaints against various service providers. If the client considers it as fraudulent, we may cancel their credit card and issue a new one free of charge. The service provider won't be able to deduct any payments from the client's account, even if the credit card wasn't a prepaid one and is connected to their account, unless the client gave his account number to the service provider," noted Sana from the call center of another bank.

Customers who feel they have been scammed or cheated can complain with documentary proof at the consumer protection department, or call them on the hotline 135. Customers should always carefully read the contract they sign when subscribing to any services, especially those related to the Internet, TV channels, gaming, etc.