x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Consumers have somewhere to go

Consumers and retailers need to know where they stand when service falls short of what's acceptable.

The rising number of complaints received by Dubai's Department of Economic Development (DED) indicates consumers are increasingly aware of their rights and know when they are being short-changed. But the absence of a unified set of consumer rules is still causing confusion.

As The National reported yesterday, the number of complaints filed to DED has increased from 6,902 to 8,776 between 2011 and 2012. In the first five months of 2013, the department said it had received 4,460 complaints from consumers.

The DED has organised several campaigns to educate both consumers and shop owners about their rights, duties and responsibilities. For example, a 2010 campaign placed notices at checkouts to inform shoppers who to contacy if they wanted to complain about the service they received.

Last year, the DED also set up a number of mobile consumer protection centres in major malls and started a social media campaign to spread awareness and engage with the public.

And during Ramadan this year, several campaigns have been initiated to ensure that consumer rights are not infringed.

Inspectors have been touring the emirate's markets to check the prices of essential goods and have visited the cattle market and the fruit and vegetable market, where an increase in prices usually occurs at this time of year.

These campaigns are much needed. Some retailers have been known to take advantage of consumers in Ramadan by raising prices.

But, as many consumers have suggested, more work needs to be done.

The country does not have a standard set of rules that define consumer rights for refunds and exchanges, which can often lead to widely different experiences at the checkout and after-sales.

The retail experience is a big draw for both residents and tourists, but that situation may change if shoppers continue to encounter different rules in different shops. The time for a clearer and unified set of rules has rarely been more pressing.