x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Consumer protection for UAE's online shoppers

All companies headquartered in Dubai are being urged to display the department's consumer protection hotline number on their homepages.

DUBAI// About 25 shopping websites have registered with the Department of Economic Development (Ded).

All companies headquartered in the emirate are being urged to display the department's consumer protection hotline number on their homepages.

The push is part of a campaign launched a year ago aimed at raising shoppers' awareness of who to contact should they need to complain.

Under the directive, companies that fail to provide details could face a fine, although none have been issued so far.

"Roughly 25 online shopping sites have registered since Ded issued the directive on displaying the consumer rights protection logo on such sites last year," said Adel Al Helou, head of Ded's consumer awareness section. "Ded advises and assists such sites to display the logo through a simple procedure."

Ded estimated last year that more than 100 websites were offering e-commerce services in the UAE.

"Any action for non-compliance is initiated only after encouraging and assisting the websites to comply with the directive," Mr Al Helou said.

The campaign has been welcomed by consumers, who say more must be done before online shopping becomes established in the UAE.

"It's good that these companies have put the phone number on their site, but I think what is more important is if you can contact them directly to resolve a problem," said Adnan Khan, from Dubai.

"One of the reasons I'm a bit unsure about ordering stuff online is the hassle you have to go through to return stuff if you don't like it or it's damaged.

"You know where you stand if you buy something in person."

More than Dh7 billion has been spent online in the UAE in recent years but some consumers still believe it is risky to buy from websites.

"They never deliver on time and when they do you end up having to wait for most of the day," said a British resident. "Also, many of the things I would like to order aren't available in this country, so I would usually have to go through Amazon, where the cost of shipping can be very high - and that's if they ship here at all."

Ded said it wanted people to be as aware of their rights when shopping online as when they were at a mall.

A number of businesses, including shops, cafes, restaurants and other outlets in Dubai, already display yellow signs with details of the consumer protection department at counters and on walls. To make a complaint, call Ded's hotline on 600 545555.

nhanif@thenational.ae