Distributors of Coca-Cola and Pepsi have been summoned for showdown talks with officials on Sunday as the two sides seek a breakthrough in a row over the price of drink cans.
Consumer watchdogs on Sunday ordered 300ml cans from the two drink makers to be removed from store shelves as the size of the products had been reduced without an accompanying price cut.
Mohammed Al Shehhi, the undersecretary of the Ministry of Economy, yesterday reiterated that the distributors had broken price rules by reducing the can size from 355ml while still charging Dh1.50.
But he appeared to leave the door open for a resolution to the deadlock, saying "there's always room for negotiation".
"We are continuing talks and they have a meeting with me on Sunday," he said in Dubai yesterday. "I am very clear the previous agreement was for 350ml for Dh1.50 and the new cans are not as per our agreement."
The products were being withdrawn from the market over the next month, he said. The suppliers say they have done nothing wrong.
"We abide by whatever agreements are put in place by the ministry, and we believe we have always done so," said Tarek El Sakka, the general manager of Dubai Refreshments, which distributes Pepsi in Dubai and the Northern Emirates. "We are providing the consumers with a wide range of choices and value. We are selling 355ml cans in the market. We are also selling a litre bottle for Dh3. We have to provide consumers with what they want to some degree."
No representative of Coca-Cola was available to comment.
Adding to confusion about the issue, Hashim Al Nuaimi, the head of the ministry's consumer protection department, on Tuesday said the removal was because Coca-Cola and Pepsi were selling their products without putting the price or the Arabic labelling of the ingredients on the cans.
Such actions broke consumer protection laws, he was quoted as saying by the WAM news agency.
Both Pepsi and Coca-Cola increased their retail prices in January last year for the first time in 20 years, from Dh1 to Dh1.50 for a can.
Both companies applied to the Ministry of Economy to raise prices, citing factors including inflation, rising petrol and salary costs, and the steep rise in sugar prices.