Consumer watchdogs ordered 300ml cans of Coca-Cola and Pepsi to be removed from store shelves yesterday because distributors had reduced the size but not the price.
The reduction in size from 355ml while still charging Dh1.5 breached government price controls, said Hashim Al Nuaimi, head of consumer protection at the Ministry of Economy.
Mr Al Nuaimi said the ministry had launched an inspection after receiving complaints from the public.
However, distributors insisted the smaller-size can was supplied only to tourist establishments, and complained that they had received no notice of the ministry’s action.
“We have not been informed,” said Tarek El Sakka, general manager of Dubai Refreshments, which distributes Pepsi in Dubai and the Northern Emirates.
“We want a meeting soon to talk about this, but we do not have any more information. We have this can in tourist establishments and hotels. The retailers did not buy the cans from us.”
Mr El Sakka added: “If stores are buying it, they are not buying from us directly. We need to speak to the ministry to understand their concerns.”
Retailers were also confused. Some said Pepsi was sold in 355ml cans and Coca-Cola in 330ml, both for Dh1.5, and they had never stocked 300ml cans.
Fahmi Al Shawa, managing director of Convenience Arabia, which owns the Circle K chain of stores, said they had not been offered the 300ml cans from Coca-Cola and Pepsi.
“We received our latest stock this morning and all the cans are the 355ml ones,” he said.
Others, however, said the smaller cans were available. “Some other stores have been selling 300ml cans and now we have been told it’s strictly prohibited,” said Fazal Valiyaveetil, purchasing manager at Fathima, a convenience store with 15 outlets in Abu Dhabi. “It has to be 355ml or there will be fines.”
To add to the confusion, LuLu Hypermarket said they were removing all 330ml Coca-Cola cans from the shelves because the Government had said they should be 355ml.
“Based on this decision by the Ministry of Economy, we are removing Coca-Cola cans of 330ml from our shelves pending a final decision from the Government, ” said V. Nanadakumar, spokesman for the group.
PepsiCo Middle East and Coca-Cola declined to comment, and referred queries to their local distributors.
Al Ahlia Gulf Line (AGL), the Coca-Cola distributor, said it had been asked to remove its 300ml cans from the market because they did not display the Dh1.5 price.
“The 30 ml cans of Coca-Cola, Sprite and Fanta were available only in restaurants, hotels, catering and coffee shops and were not distributed to other retail outlets such as supermarkets and groceries,” the company said. “AGL is taking necessary steps to comply and to replace the 300ml cans to minimise any inconvenience to customers and consumers.”
Both Pepsi and Coca-Cola increased their retail prices last January for the first time in 20 years, from Dh1 to Dh1.5 for a can.
Both companies applied to the Ministry of Economy to raise prices based on factors including inflation, rising petrol and salary costs, and the steep rise in sugar prices.