Consumer Protection Law of UAE
A consumer is a user of goods and services; hence, every producer could also be termed as a consumer. However, conflicting interests have categorized them, inevitably, into two different groups.
The legal doctrine of ‘Caveat Emptor’, which means ‘let the buyer beware’, was the norm and the consumer had to be alert and cautious in purchasing any goods. Over the years, the doctrine of Caveat Emptor coupled with the gap between the general ‘demand and ‘supply levels in the markets forced the consumers to accept whatever was offered to them.
On the other hand, the expanding markets necessitated the introduction of various intermediaries between the producer and the ultimate consumer. ‘Advertising, though ostensibly directed at informing potential consumers about the availability and uses of a product began to be resorted to as a medium for exaggerating the uses of ones products or disparaging others products so as to have an edge over competitors.
Unfair and deceptive practices such as selling of defective or sub-standard goods, charging exorbitant prices, misrepresenting the efficacy or usefulness of goods, negligence as to safety standards, etc. became rampant. It, therefore, became necessary to evolve statutory measures, even in developed countries, to make producers/traders more accountable to consumers.
The need to ensure the basic rights to health, safety, etc. of the consumers have been long recognized the world over and legislations were enacted in many countries to protect the interests of Consumers. Thus replacing the doctrine of Caveat Emptor with the principle of ‘ Consumer Sovereignty or’ Consumer is the King.
The United Arab Emirates also followed suit and a new federal consumer protection law has been promulgated. Under which a consumer protection committee formed to monitor the prices of consumer goods. The provisions of the laws advocate the principle of healthy competition and fighting monopoly and commercial fraudulence.
The new legislation is complementing other laws concerning civil procedures, commercial fraudulence, commercial agencies, industry organization and trading in precious gems and metals.
Disregarding any provisions of these laws could lead to violation of other related laws and this itself is enough to ensure strict enforcements.
The law No: 6 of 2006 covers and tackles issues relating to the rights of consumer, responsibilities and liabilities and specifying penalties to be imposed on people for selling substandard goods.
Under the law, a consumer protection higher committee will be constituted under the chairmanship of the Minister of Economy. The Committee will also comprise of representative of the Consumer Protection Societies. The Committee formation and determination of its powers will be decided by a resolution of the cabinet.
In case of a crisis or extraordinary circumstances in the market leading to price hikes, the minister will recommend procedures to curb such price increases and protect consumer’s interests.
A new Consumer Protection Department (CPD) will also established at the Ministry of Economy (MOE) with a mandate to supervise the execution of the general policy for the protection of consumer in cooperation with the authorities.
The Key responsibilities of CPD includes;
1. To supervise the implementation of policies designed to protect Consumers in cooperation with the concerned authorities in the State.
2. To coordinate with the concerned authorities in the State in order to cope with the unlawful commercial practices detrimental to the Consumer.
3. To coordinate with the concerned authorities to heighten Consumer awareness in the State about the commodities and Services, along with having the Consumers acquainted with their rights and the methods of the claims thereof.
4. To monitor Price movements and curb Price increases.
5. To achieve the principle of the honest competition and fight monopoly.
6. To receive complaints from Consumers and refer them to the concerned authorities or otherwise take the necessary action(s) prescribed in the Department’s mandate. A Complaint may be filled directly by the Consumer or through the consumer protection association, when such acts as the representative of the particular Consumer.
7. To publish and distribute the decision and recommendations designed to raise Consumer awareness.
The key responsibilities of the (CPD) includes increasing the consumer’s awareness, monitor the movement of prices and control their increase, combat monopoly, to receive consumers complaints and adopt appropriate action.
The law states that the Provider shall upon offering any commodity to consumers shall prominently display in the cover of the commodity or on the packet a label the particulars of the product including date of production,or packing, net weight, country of origin, expiry date, compnents and specifications of product etc. The Provider shall also prominently display the price of the product either in the label or at the place where the commodity is displayed. The consumer shall also have the right to receive a dated bill for the product with paticlulars such as price, type etc. The laws warrants the conformity of the product or the service provided to the consumer with the declared and approved standardized specifications. As per the law, the supplier is prohibited to display or promote counterfeited commodities that would inflict damages or losses on consumers.
According to the new law, a consumer will be entitled to be indemnified against personal or financial damages in accordance with the general rules in force. Any agreement in contravention therewith be null and void.
Concerning commercial and trade agencies, the law says that each commercial agent or distributor shall honour all guidance provided by the manufacturer or the trade agent of the commodity.
The law also obliges the provider to provide for repair, maintain or provide service to the product after sales and to replace a product if a defect is found in the product within a specific time period.
The law also confer legal capcity to CPD to represent the Consumers before the Courts and any other body prescribed by law. Without prejudicing the rights of the parties to go to the Court, the department can also proceed with any settlement to protect the consumers’ interest.
According to law, those found guilty of violating the provision will face a fine of not les than Dhs. 1,000/-. In case a supplier or a distributor fails to unequivocally warn against the hazards associated with use of the commodity or the service causing damages penalty will be not less than Dhs. 10,000/-.
The new law is a milestone in serving the interests of the consumers in protecting their basic rights against unfair trade practices, unscrupulous exploitation etc and their right to seek redressal against such practices. The law guarantee the consumers right to be heard and to be assured that consumers interests will receive due consideration at the appropriate forum.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shani Salim
Shani Salim - Graduated in Law (LLB) from the University of Kerala, India (1997). Master of Business Laws (MBL)- University of Kerala, India (2000). LLM in International Economic Law- University of Warwick, UK (2002)
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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.