x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Another 2,300 dissatisfied consumers make complaints

Consumer complaints in Dubai are on the rise following a campaign aimed at making buyers more aware of their rights.

DUBAI // A campaign to make consumers more aware of their rights has led to a huge increase in the number of complainers.

The Dubai Consumer Protection Agency said it had already received 2,300 complaints from shoppers in the first quarter of this year, compared with 2,900 for the whole of last year.

Officials said the higher rate of complaints followed the launch of a consumer rights awareness effort last year that involved putting posters and notices on shop counters, telling buyers what to do if they experienced a problem.

Most of the complaint calls stemmed from disagreements over refunds and returns.

"We think it is a positive outcome because it shows that our awareness campaign is working," said Mohammed Lootah, the deputy chief operating officer at the commercial compliance and consumer protection division of the Department of Economic Development (DED).

"I expect this number to continue to increase for a period but then fall as people become more aware of their rights and issues are resolved," he said.

Mr Lootah yesterday announced the results of the consumer rights programme for retailers that aimed to build an understanding of Consumer Law No. (26) 2006.

He said 99 per cent of the complaints lodged last year had been solved by consumer protection officers.

As part of its consumer rights campaign, the DED held a series of meetings at malls in April involving nearly 1,700 retail staff from the jewellery, electronics, car sales and textile sectors.

A similar programme last year attracted 3,000 traders and 1,500 sales staff from a number of shops.

The consultation was also aimed at increasing awareness of international policies on refunds, exchange, warranty and invoicing.

Mr Lootah said most large international retailers applied their own returns and exchange policies in Dubai unless they conflicted with federal law. That law states consumers are entitled to an exchange if the product develops a fault or was faulty when sold.

Retailers should offer refunds if the returned product cannot be repaired or exchanged for the same item, the law states.

To help deal with disputes on these issues, the consumer protection agency is looking to publish a "blue book" that contains policies on refunds, exchanges, warranties and invoices, and ways to resolve complaints.

"We've had a lot of good suggestions on what to put in the blue book, and we hope to complete by the end of the year," said Adel al Helou, the head of the consumer protection agency.

But some consumers said more should be done.

"I've seen the yellow signs up in shops but to be honest, when you read it, they don't give enough information," said Sanjeet Patel, an Indian business consultant in Dubai.

"It would be better if they had all the information on the poster telling you what your rights are and what to do."

James Thomas, a Briton who works in the hospitality industry, said refunds should be given more quickly.

"At the moment, if you take something back that's faulty they put it in for repairs that take ages," Mr Thomas said. "They should be forced to give refunds after a certain period of time when they can't repair the product."

For more information on consumer rights visit consumerrights.ae.

nhanif@thenational.ae