Ministry of Economy to conduct 420 inspection visits during Ramadan 2021 to ensure availability of goods, price stability & consumer protection
The Ministry of Economy (MoE) organized a media briefing on consumer protection measures in the UAE, especially the preparations and efforts that have been made ahead of the holy month of Ramadan 2021. The media briefing covered a number of measures and preparations made by the Ministry and its strategic partners to ensure best practices for consumer protection throughout the year in general, and in Ramadan in particular.
The new Consumer Protection Law, No. 15 of 2020, which was issued last year further strengthened the UAE’s consumer protection landscape by ensuring the quality of products and service provided to the consumer. These measures ensure the correct pricing of goods and preserve the health and safety of the consumer when purchasing the goods or upon receiving and using them. Furthermore, they encourage proper consumption patterns, as well as the adoption of the ideal regulatory and supervisory standards in the markets to ensure their stability and prosperity, establish a balanced relationship between merchants and consumers across various markets of the country including smart trade and online shopping platforms. Besides, they provide mechanisms dedicated to protecting consumers in unprecedented and emergency circumstances.
During the session, Marwan AlSboosi, Director of the Competition and Consumer Protection Department at the Ministry of Economy, reviewed a number of initiatives that the Ministry is working to implement in cooperation with its partners from various federal and local authorities and the cooperative and private sectors in all the emirates. These are designed to enable sound business practices, consumer protection and raise the consumer awareness in the country.
Extensive meetings with suppliers to ensure commodity availability and market stability
AlSboosi explained that the Ministry of Economy, represented by the Competition and Consumer Protection Department, held approximately 29 meetings since the beginning of 2021 until now, targeting traders of rice, flour, sugar, meat, poultry, fish, dairy products and juices and the like. These meetings were aimed at raising the level of communication and coordination with all suppliers and traders; exchanging information on markets that are exporting to the country; and reviewing their plans to ensure the availability of goods and meet the needs of the markets. The discussions focused on preparations for Ramadan, ensuring stability of prices and preventing any unjustified price hikes. During the meetings, suppliers confirmed their commitment to addressing the needs of the local markets in terms of commodities and product requirements and taking the necessary measures to avoid any shortage of basic commodities throughout the year, especially during the Ramadan season.
He underlined that the relations between the Ministry and the suppliers of goods or sales outlets are long-term partnerships supported by mutual efforts for coordination and cooperation in a way that serves the interests of both parties. It helps maintain the availability of goods and ensure market stability and thus contributes to the balance of the national economy and serves the country’s strategic economic objectives.
The Ministry also held meetings with representatives of the vegetable and fruit markets in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. During these meetings, measures to ensure the availability of necessary stock of vegetables and fruits in preparation for Ramadan were agreed upon. These will help meet the expected rise in demand during the holy month, thus maintaining stability of prices.
The average daily import of vegetables and fruits to the Dubai market during the Ramadan season is around 17,000 tonnes, while the import of Abu Dhabi merchants amount to around 5,000 tonnes on a daily basis. The total volume of the currently available stock of vegetables and fruits is approximately 130,000 tonnes.
Sale campaigns and Ramadan basket initiatives across the country
A series of Ramadan discount campaigns have been announced by various cooperatives and outlets as a result of the Ministry’s meetings with its partners from consumer cooperatives and outlets in the country. They have a total of 894 headquarters and branches spread across various emirates of the country, and the discount rates offered by these campaigns vary, ranging between 25 to 75 per cent for many basic commodities, especially Ramadan goods. The total number of goods covered by the campaigns in some outlets reaches up to 30,000. Several outlets have also announced the Ramadan baskets initiative on the occasion of the holy month, in the forms of open baskets that allow consumer to choose products of his own choice or fixed baskets that include a specific group of high-demand commodities during the Ramadan season in multiple sizes, options and price ranges. On an average, various offers offered by these associations and outlets cost between AED 50 and 140, which will be announced continuously during the holy season.
AlSboosi explained that many associations and outlets offer special offers through their online shopping platforms, highlighting the importance of these offers to ensure consumer satisfaction and their access to goods, products and services. Besides, these will help avoid crowds in sales outlets, which is essential to maintain social distancing and the required health precautions during the pandemic times. He further urged consumers to follow all instructions and guidelines approved by the competent authorities in the country in order to safeguard their health and wellbeing and to limit the further spread of the coronavirus.
420 field visits and 1 inspection tour during Ramadan
For the monitoring of markets and sales outlets and to ensure the extent of merchants’ commitment to controlling prices, AlSboosi explained that the Ministry of Economy has developed a plan for field visits, before and during Ramadan. The plan includes 420 field visits and a tour of cooperative societies, sales outlets, grocery stores, meat, poultry and fish markets in the various emirates of the country, to ensure that prices are maintained and that the outlets and markets are committed to implementing the initiatives that have been announced.
He stated that the total number of field tours carried out by the Ministry and local departments in various country markets during the year 2020 reached 139,190, including 15,542 consumer protection inspections. During these visits, commodity identification cards, pricing of products, and placing of price labels were checked, in addition to the monitoring of the quality of goods. The rest of the tours belonged to the categories of commercial fraud, trademarks, copyright, factory and commercial agency searches. During the first quarter of 2021, a total of 615 tours were conducted, of which 282 were for consumer protection.
He emphasized that consumers are also part of these efforts and that they have an important role in enhancing the environment for consumer protection in the country through constructive interaction with the supervisory authorities, especially the Ministry of Economy. They can contact the Ministry’s call center at 8001222 to report malpractices related to consumer rights, submit complaints, and put forward their suggestions and observations to further develop the country’s consumer protection environment.
AlSboosi pointed out that the Competition and Consumer Protection Department continues to receive consumer complaints and resolve them in cooperation with the competent authorities in the country. The total number of complaints that were resolved during the Q1 of 2021 in the various emirates of the country reached 1,412. He explained that the Ministry is working on an initiative to unify consumer complaints procedures at the national level in partnership with the competent authorities, in order to provide best services that raise consumer happiness by focusing on reducing the time taken to address them.
Recall of goods
Marwan AlSboosi added that the Ministry has set up a mechanism to educate consumers about goods that do not conform to the specifications and standards through the Ministry’s website, through which all the recalled goods, their quality and potential damages are explained. Suppliers are required to announce product recalls in two daily local newspapers at least twice, provided that one of them is issued in the Arabic language, within a period not exceeding (24) hours from the date of his notification of the summons. This is necessary to inform the consumer of the quality of the recall and the preventive means.
He pointed out that the activation of the recall mechanism comes in light of what was stipulated in the articles of Federal Law No. 15 of 2020 regarding consumer protection, as Article No. (20) on the supplied law obliges to ensure that the commodity or service provided to the consumer conforms to the standard specifications, conditions and controls related to health and safety and implemented related legislation in the country. While the articles of the executive regulations of the law regulate the procedures and measures for consumer protection in case a defect in the good or service is discovered upon use, and it clarifies the consumer’s right in the way the good is handled.
He stated that the total number of commodities recall cases since January 2021 until the present time has reached 33,725 and that the categories of cars and electronic devices accounted for the largest percentage of the total recalled goods. 29,897 cars were recalled, while the total number of recalled electronic devices amounted to approximately 2,158. The number of cosmetic products recalled was 1,670. He explained that the reasons for the recall vary from preventive reasons to safety reasons and the initiation of recall processes for the same commodity outside of the country, or the manufacturer’s announcement of a recall campaign for a commodity that it had put on the market.
Furthermore, AlSboosi revealed the results of the consumer satisfaction study conducted by the Consumer Protection Department at the Ministry of Economy to measure the level of satisfaction with consumer protection practices and laws for the year 2020, in order to achieve the strategic plan of the Ministry of Economy to raise consumer satisfaction, and to improve the Emirati community’s sense of the Ministry’s responsibility and its efforts and the importance of its role in ensuring their protection from price hikes and commercial fraud. The result of the level of satisfaction with laws, legislation and initiatives implemented by the Competition and Consumer Protection Department grew to 87 per cent in 2020 from 82 per cent in 2019.