Know your rights in the UAE: Consumer is not always king

UAE consumer protection group urged to respond quickly to complaints

The buyer has the right to be compensated for a defective product purchased by him or the defective product should be repaired or replaced, according to Hassan Al Katheeri, consumer activist and former chairman of the Emirates Consumer Protection Association.

The buyer also has the right to complain to consumer protection authorities, Al Katheeri said.

He also urged the Consumer Protection Association to respond quickly to consumer complaints because delay may make the buyer conclude that complaining is futile.

Al Katheeri’s views came in the programme ‘Rouh Al Qanoon’ (‘Spirit of the Law’) broadcast by Noor Dubai radio and presented by the lawyer Eisa bin Haider.

Al Katheeri also urged the UAE government to adopt the system of recalling defective goods as practiced in developed countries.

In such a system, manufacturers are committed to withdrawing their defective products from the market.

Companies should inform consumers about defective products through their websites and periodic bulletins of consumer protection associations.

Such measures will protect the manufacturer’s reputation and to avoid any punitive action by the government, he added.

He also called for bridging the gap between the role played by consumer protection associations in western countries and their counterparts in the UAE and the Arab world.

“The budget allocation for the British Society for Consumer Protection is Dh900 million and they have a staff of about 300 people,” Al Katheeri said.

Periodic consumer awareness bulletins cost up to half a million dirhams a month, he added.

He suggested setting up specialised laboratories in the GCC countries to test products for quality and safety.

For example, a facility for checking vehicles and tyres can be based in UAE while a lab for examining drugs can be located in Saudi Arabia.

Al Katheeri also asked for greater cooperation between the consumer protection associations and universities in UAE.

Al Katheeri said consumer protection associations in the UAE and Arab states are weaker compared to western societies which began to function way back in 1962.

Half the staff of the consumer protection association in Singapore are full-time workers whereas the Emirates Consumer Protection Association depends on volunteers and a small financial subsidy from the Ministry of Social Affairs, he added.

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