Customers complain of ‘extra’ shipping fees during pandemic

By Nawara Fattahova

KUWAIT: Thousands of customers may have been victims of overcharging by some shipping and delivery companies. During the pandemic, online shopping skyrocketed, but people have complained about paying extra amounts described as customs fees and other unclear charges. Also some customers didn’t receive an invoice or receipt for the fees charged or the invoices were fake.

An inspector with the customer protection department of the ministry of commerce explained to Kuwait Times that the department has experienced a significant increase in complaints from customers regarding shipping fees. “When a consumer complained of being asked to pay excessive fees just to receive his shipment, our inspectors received the complaint and went to the company, which said that these invoices were not issued by the company, blaming the delivery personnel for stealing the money,” the inspector, Abdullah, said.

Consumers have also complained of not being given invoices for their payment, as the deliverymen told them they do not issue receipts. According to ministry decree no. 216/2014, a company or its employees are obliged to give a receipt for any payment they receive. Some shipping companies issue invoices with unclear or wrong fee descriptions, and only in English. According to the abovementioned decree, issuing the invoice only in English is a violation, as it should also be issued in Arabic, which is the official language of Kuwait.

Regarding the fees, some are inflated or overcharged. Customs fee is set at KD 1 by the General Administration of Customs. This was confirmed by an official statement by its General Director Jamal Al-Jalawi during a live TV show on KTV broadcasted in January, during which he said the customs fee is KD 1 only, and any additional fee can be reported to the general prosecution.

Also, many companies demand fees for shipping and handling from the consumer. These may be double-charged fees since the shipper has in most cases already paid for the package to be shipped and handled. Basically, the shipping company is charging twice for the same service, irrespective of whether customers have already paid in advance or whether the sellers paid it by offering free shipping.

Due to the high number of customer complaints, a Kuwaiti online shopper outraged by the excessive charges by shipping companies launched a campaign to combat such practices. This campaign was launched on social media through the hashtag #ExemptingPersonalShipments. “We launched this campaign to get the support of the ministry of commerce and customs administration, which are not performing their duties,” said Mubarak Al-Ajmi, who is behind the initiative.

According to Ajmi, many shipping companies refer to some charges as customs fees, but customs fees should only be KD 1 – any further fees are not set by the customs department. “A source at the customs told me that some companies receive around 6,000 shipments a day, and they charge each customer the fee separately, although they pay once for each shipment consisting of 50 parcels,” he stressed.      

The campaign became very popular over the past weeks and even reached the parliament. MP Riyadh Al-Adasani wrote on his Twitter account that increased customs fees on personal shipments should be canceled, assuring he will take action in the future sessions of the parliament. Also, MP Mohammad Al-Huwailah demanded relieving personal shipments under KD 500 of customs fees.