Bulgarian Telco Vivacom Engaged in Unfair Practice - Supreme Court
Bulgaria's Supreme Administrative Court (VAS) has upheld unfair commercial practice accusations of the consumer protection watchdog against telecom operator Vivacom.
Vivacom, the trade name of Bulgarian Telecommunication Co (BTC), engaged in unfair practices by charging penalties for the pre-term termination of remotely signed fixed-term contracts, which never actually existed and were never signed, according to a ruling of VAS, as cited by the Commission for Consumer Protection.
The ruling of VAS means that the decision of the watchdog takes effect conclusively and the company is banned from engaging in the unfair commercial practice in the future.
Both the watchdog and VAS found that the mobile operator applied the following scheme: after a telephone call and agreement for a remotely signed contract, the customer was not given an opportunity to get acquainted with the terms of the contract in written form. They were also not acquainted with the start date of the contract, which was a precondition for missing the withdrawal period.
In most cases, consumers were unaware of the fact that they had sealed a valid contract as they had never placed their signature under such a document, while its revocation cost them the sum total of all of the monthly fees by the expiry date of the contract.
After a number of complaints against the practice and the intervention of the watchdog, the mobile operator agreed to terminate the remotely signed contracts without penalties and to reimburse the customers for the sums they had paid, saying that the existence of these contracts could be explained with a technical error.
The unfair commercial practice was applied in the period when the Consumer Protection Act allowed the remote signing of contracts without a signature of the consumer on a paper-based document.
Under the current legislation, the oral agreement for sealing a deal does not entail the existence of a contract, according to the media statement of the Commission for Consumer Protection.
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