One day after authorities decided to allow consumers to terminate their contracts with cable operators, Kosovo’s electronic and communications body, ARKEP, announced changes to its regulation.
Kosovo’s Electronic and Postal Communications Regulatory Authority, ARKEP, announced, on Tuesday, it approved changes in its regulation allowing consumers to terminate the contracts in cases the operators change their packages, without incurring a penalty, in conformity with the Law on Consumer Protection.
“The period established when the service provider can request compensation for the early termination of the contract (during the first 9 months when the contract is concluded for 12 months, respectively the first 12 months when the contract is concluded for 24 months), applies only to the cases when all the terms of the contract have been met by the service provider,” ARKEP explains.
The announcement comes one day after the Kosovo Ministry of Industry, Entrepreneurship and Trade, MINT, decided to enable consumers the right to terminate the contract if the cable operator has failed to fulfill its obligations, obliging cable operators to remove the unfair conditions in the contract.
The Law on Consumer Protection specifies “that ‘Conditions which are considered unfair are those conditions which have the purpose or effect of: Forcing the consumer to fulfill all his obligations when the seller or supplier does not fulfill his obligations’,” MINT statement reads.
According to the ministry, the current conditions that do not allow the consumers to terminate the existing contracts with the cable operators without incurring a penalty is a direct violation of the Law on Consumer Protection.
The ministry’s decision comes after Kosovars cried foul at the beginning of this year when the sports channels they had subscribed to disappeared from the menu offered by their cable operator.
On January 19, the Kosovo Independent Media Commission, KPM, fined four cable operators – Artmotion, Kujtesa, Ipko, and Telkos – a total of 100,000 euros for failing to inform customers that they would not be carrying certain channels in 2024 after their contracts with Albanian satellite and cable distributor DigitAlb expired.
KPM found that the operators had misled subscribers into believing they would be able to watch the channels; many had already paid one-year subscriptions.
“The most recent contract was signed on December 28, 2023, a couple of days before the rights to broadcast the DigitAlb channels expired,” KPM head Jeton Mehmeti had said at the time, pledging that KPM would work on amending the current regulation to favor consumer rights.
The contracts were in line with the previous ARKEP regulation, as BIRN reported.
“The regulation itself is not in accordance with the Law on Consumer Protection because it sets certain favourable conditions for operators that are unfavourable for consumers,” Naim Hajra, the head of Kosovo’s market inspectorate had told BIRN.
The cable operators were fined within weeks, but their customers still did not get the channels they had paid for, nor did they get their money back.
Data from the Kosovo Consumer Protection department at the Ministry of Industry, Entrepreneurship and Trade, MINT, suggest public awareness of consumer rights has increased over the past five years. But the percentage of cases that are resolved remains low.
Based on interviews with officials and an online questionnaire, BIRN found that legal discrepancies, red tape and a dire lack of trust in public institutions mean Kosovars have little hope of securing direct compensation for violations of their consumer rights.
Just three out of 55 respondents said they had received financial compensation – one after complaining to the market inspectorate and two after contacting the company in question; 25 tried to resolve the issue with the company directly; 13 did not complain at all, mostly because they believed it was pointless.
06 February 2024 - 16:13