KUWAIT: The prices of some popular brands of cigarettes were hiked- as much as 60 percent for some brands – despite the move being labeled as illegal by the ministry of commerce and industry. A supplier is not allowed to increase the price of any item unless they obtain an approval from the ministry, which is usually given for imported goods whose prices have increased in their country of origin. If the supplier increases the price without this approval, they will be sanctioned. For the past few days, the shelves of most cigarette kiosks at supermarkets have been empty and many brands were not available, especially the brands whose prices were to be hiked.
On Thursday, a copy of the new pricelist issued by the company importing some brands of cigarettes circulated on social media. The letter said that the prices of the listed brands will be increased from Sunday (yesterday). Many smokers dismissed the move as rumors, as similar announcements were made last year and two years ago, but were never applied. But most supermarkets and shops yesterday were selling these brands at the new prices. Some had even hidden other popular brands of cigarettes so people wouldn’t buy them.
Kuwait Times contacted the consumer protection department of the ministry of commerce to clarify the increase in prices. An inspector who preferred to remain anonymous confirmed that the increase is illegal, as the ministry didn’t give any approval. He also noted that the department has received hundreds of complaints from consumers regarding the price hike.
“Our inspectors are working for the past 48 hours and checking various stores including baqalas and supermarkets to check if they have increased the prices. They start working after the news of the hike spread on Thursday, and issued fines on violating stores. They also slapped fines for hiding the cigarettes as it constitutes illegal hoarding of goods,” the inspector told Kuwait Times.
Customers can complain if they find prices have increased. “Our inspectors haven’t reached all stores, so if a consumer finds increased prices, they can report this by visiting any of our consumer protection centers in different areas by taking the invoice with them, and our inspector will go to the store and issue a fine to the violating store,” he added.
The supervisor at a supermarket in Hawally governorate confirmed the new price list. “I wasn’t sure of this price hike, and early in the morning we were still selling cigarettes according to the old prices, but the price changed automatically in our systems at all the branches a few hours later. I believe they have an approval, or else they wouldn’t have issued this new price list,” he told Kuwait Times. Kuwait Times visited two baqalas in Salmiya that were still selling cigarettes according to the old prices, and denied applying any price hike on any brand of cigarettes.
By Nawara Fattahova