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Consumer is the king, better not forget

Joy Sengupta, Amira Agarib
Filed on March 14, 2008

DUBAI - Amit Kumar (name changed) bought a cordless phone from a popular electronics shop in Dubai. Three months later, the phone stopped working and he took it back to the shop for repairs. For one month, no one from the store contacted him. Last month, when he went to the shop, he was bluntly told that the phone could not be repaired.

'These people did not even have the courtesy of informing me. It was only when I contacted them that I was given a blunt reply. I really want to report this matter to the authorities so that strict action can be initiated,' he said angrily.

With the World Consumer Rights Day being celebrated today, a majority of people in the UAE still remain oblivious about consumer rights and privileges. With Dubai considered to be a shoppers' paradise, the conditions here are the same as many people, time and again, complain about ill-treatment at the hands of shopkeepers. Most of them have got no idea what to do and whom to approach in such situations.

Dubai, at present, is also fighting the growing menace of counterfeit goods, which have flooded the market of late. Be it watches of international brands, perfumes, bags, sunglasses etc, duplicates of international brands are being openly sold in the market. Though departments like the Dubai Municipality, Department of Economic Development (DED) and the Consumer Protection Union talk about raids, inspections etc, the measures have not made much of a difference.

Speaking to Khaleej Times, Mohamed Hilal Muroushedi, Director of the Compliance Division in DED, said the department has been working to create a platform that builds trust and efficiency in the business sectors.

'The aim of these initiatives is to further enhance Dubai’s stature internationally as a trading centre that protects the interests of all consumers, producers and marketing agencies. Counterfeit and fake products are a global menace and have been chipping away at the profitability of brand producers. Having recognised the importance of eradicating counterfeit and fake products, DED has been making concerted efforts that bring together all sections of the trade, including the public, who are encouraged to report any incidents of fake and counterfeit products on sale,' he said.

'The Compliance Division has a clearly stated policy and work guidelines to address the issues of commercial fraud, trademark and counterfeiting. Commercial protection laws are rigorously enforced to prevent the menace, and the department undertakes regular and stringent inspection campaigns. Anyone can lodge a complaint with DED by visiting our office in Deira or calling the Consumer Protection Hotline on 042020220. Once a complaint is registered, DED officials will launch an investigation to ascertain the extent of the fraud. The DED will also refer the matter to the Dubai Police and the CID, if needed,' the official added.

Talking about the figures, Muroushedi said that the DED conducted more than 80 arranged (based on received complaints) and random campaigns in 2007. Several fake goods were confiscated including watches, bags, clothes and perfumes.

'A penalty list is available and we are currently amending it and increasing the fines to prevent the proliferation of fake goods. Most of the counterfeit goods in Dubai come from East Asian countries,' he pointed out.

According to figures available with the Dubai Municipality, a total of 30,052 items, including fake watches, bags and perfumes were confiscated in 2007. 'Our inspectors are working everyday in collaboration with Dubai Police to arrest the roaming vendors who sell fake goods and any other items. After the confiscation of the goods, we transfer the seller to police and goods to the Dubai Municipality store in Umm Al Roomol for destroying,' said an official.

Talking about consumer rights, Jamal Al Saeedi, consultant at the Consumer Protection Union said, 'We are always trying to create awareness among the people about consumer rights through lecture sessions. Our job is to create awareness in the society about counterfeit goods. We also keep monitoring the market regarding the rise in prices. We have informed the Ministry of Economy about several counterfeit products being sold in the market. Based on our complaints, the legal department referred four people to the Public Prosecution for selling counterfeit goods.'

The Compliance Division of the DED has also launched a website in order to curb circulation of counterfeit goods.

'We have launched the ‘Hemaya’ website (www.himaya.ae/hemaya) as part of its continuing efforts to improve consumer and trade awareness about products. The bilingual website highlights a variety of branded consumer products, which are frequently duplicated. Consumers can access the website at www.himaya.ae/hemaya or through www.dubaided.gov.ae. The ‘Hemaya’ website includes the Compliance Division’s guidance to the public, rules and regulations that consumers and merchants should abide by in Dubai, and several pictures and examples of original and counterfeit products. The website is expected to become an important mechanism to spread awareness on fraud, duplication, counterfeit products, trademark infringements and patent rights,' said Muroushedi.

The Division has also launched a Consumer Protection Guide that provides directives on recognising fake products, reviewing warrants and checking the refund and return policy. By ensuring that the bill of payment or invoice contains the full details of the products purchased, including the date of purchase, the customers can help to protect themselves against fraud.

'Customers must resist from purchasing fake goods and thus promoting their sales, as the trade practice is unfavourable for the overall economy. Also, customers are exposed to the risk of using fake products, which are inferior in quality,' the official added.




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