x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Lack of licensing breeds 'chaos'

The Government is urged to introduce regulations to stop unlicensed businesses operating in the country.

A shopper looks at the customer notice board at the Abela superstore in Abu Dhabi. Advertisement venues, even official ones such as newspapers, are not regulated.
A shopper looks at the customer notice board at the Abela superstore in Abu Dhabi. Advertisement venues, even official ones such as newspapers, are not regulated.

ABU DHABI // The Government was yesterday urged to introduce regulations to stop unlicensed businesses operating in the country. Classified adverts on websites, noticeboards and in print were not regulated, said Saqr Ghobash, the Minister of Labour, and Hamad al Madfa, a member of the Federal National Council (FNC). The authenticity of goods and services was probably not checked. At the FNC's last session before recess, the pair agreed that local and federal authorities should launch a campaign to clear the country of maverick business practices and regulate the classified ad industry.

"I hope that such activities are treated as criminal," said Mr Madfa. "Because I can see that some people will say they have a bank and they will go and collect deposits from houses." Some advertisers, he said, gave only their mobile phone numbers. Advertising industry insiders said there were no laws governing their business, especially when it came to classified adverts. "Anybody can come to an advertising agent and ask them to publish whatever they want," said an advertising executive, who asked not to be identified.

"We won't ask you for a business licence. We won't ask you whether your business exists," he said. "I can run a death notice for you while you are still alive". According to the executive, health services cannot be advertised without permission from the health authorities in Abu Dhabi. "All other sectors have almost no rules," he said. "This is failure and economic chaos." At yesterday's meeting, Mr Madfa held up a stack of Arabic-language classified supplements and selected several examples of unlicensed businesses.

In one advert, a woman claimed she catered for birthday parties. "She is not licensed, not monitored and does the work from her house," said Mr Madfa, adding that the same building might also house shops whose owners had paid for a licence and were regularly inspected. "I read a classified advert about curtains," he continued. "I called the guy and asked him, 'Where is your store?' He said, 'I can come to your house.'"

Mr Madfa said the problem was not limited to newspaper advertisements and businesses that had no premises. Some shops were offering services they were not permitted to perform. "I read on a barbershop sign that they also do liposuction operations," he said. "Where is the monitoring?" Unlicensed small businesses had been causing harm to local and foreign investors, he said. "This is collective responsibility. This must be confronted."

The Labour Ministry has been carrying out intensive inspection campaigns. Since last year, inspectors have conducted 122,000 visits and identified 13,107 people breaking the law. However, "we cannot enter enterprises that are not licensed by us," Mr Ghobash told Mr Madfa. "The Labour Law has given the ministry the right to inspect enterprises falling under the law and registered with the ministry," he said. The ministry's inspectors can ensure that workers are involved in activities the company is licensed to perform.

Most private-sector companies have to obtain permission from the Labour Ministry to bring foreign workers into the country after obtaining licences from specialised local and federal authorities. @Email:mhabboush@thenational.ae