Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 November 2019

Consumers complain of inflated water prices when eating out

A survey by The National found some establishments were demanding up to 25 times the Dh1 charged by groceries.
Customers say water is overpriced in many restaurants. Ravindranath K / The National
Customers say water is overpriced in many restaurants. Ravindranath K / The National

ABU DHABI // Restaurants and cafes are charging exorbitant prices for local bottled water, diners have complained.

A survey by The National found some establishments were demanding up to 25 times the Dh1 charged by groceries.

Genaveuve Bac, a South African who has lived in the capital for eight years, said the problem was that there were no options.

“It’s cheap, it’s water and you’re paying nearly Dh30 a bottle,” Ms Bac said. “That’s unacceptable. Most people aren’t going to drink tap water either because we’re told it’s unhealthy for us.”

She said she recently went to Yas Waterworld and was astounded at the prices charged for bottles of Masafi water.

“You’re not allowed to bring in your own water and you’re forced to pay Dh10 for a small bottle,” she said. “It’s ridiculous. In the future you’re going to be forced to sneak your own water in.”

Dr Hashim Al Nuaimi, head of consumer protection at the Ministry of Economy, said there was no law for a price limit on water.

“This is a free market,” Dr Al Nuaimi said. “Restaurants and cafes are free to sell what they want at whatever price they intend to. Having said that, they are subject to our regulations after a complaint is made.

“Our responsibility is to regulate the prices so that we don’t find any unreasonable prices in the market. The consumers’ job is to find those.”

The National asked 15 restaurants why they charged so much for local water.

Tablez Food Group food and beverage manager Viswa Ajith said the company had changed its policy after a 2011 report in The National resurfaced on social media.

“We are making a new agreement with Al Ain and we will sell water for less,” Mr Ajith said.

Others were not so obliging. “You are paying for the service, the lemon and ice and the free Wi-Fi,” said the manager of a restaurant in Al Wahda Mall.

“Yes you can get cheaper water, but you will lose our service.”

Mr Ajith said it used to cost Dh5 for a bottle of Arwa at restaurants he manages, including Carlitos and Bloomsbury’s, but now it will cost Dh3.

“My general manager called me right after the article and he told me we need to do something about this as soon as possible,” said Mr Ajith.

“We realised that we need to change our concept because so many people were complaining.”

Consumer protection has a complaint hotline that consumers can call to report cases of inflated prices.

Hotline complaints are investigated on a case-by-case basis, Dr Al Nuaimi said, and necessary measures were taken.

“So in the case of water, yes, they can sell it at whatever price but it needs to be reasonable. You can’t sell one bottle for Dh10 whereas the entire box is Dh10 in the market.

“If they are found doing it and it is reported, then the necessary actions will take place.”

Mariane Saade, from Lebanon, said she understood businesses needed to make a profit and would be willing to pay up to Dh7 a bottle for local water.

“But simply put, I feel cheated,” Ms Saade said. “In Radisson Blu hotel we ordered four small bottles of water. That’s all we ordered, local water, and then the bill came and it was Dh100.

“Fine yes, it’s five stars and the environment and service comes into account, but to a certain extent after that it just becomes ridiculous. I can get the same bottle from anywhere for just Dh1.”

Ms Saade said she would started posting prices on her Facebook page, but would probably not report the problem to the ministry hotline.

“I’ve never reported it because you know how laws are always changing here, because they probably implemented it the first few months and then it went back to inflated prices.”

See the price comparisons here: Bottled water prices at selected cafes and restaurants - graphic

nalwasmi@thenational.ae

Updated: April 29, 2015 04:00 AM

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