Consumer protection regime in the UAE
Consumers are the backbone of our economy. Therefore, it is necessary for every jurisdiction to ensure sufficient protection of their interests. A market wherein the consumers’ interests are safeguarded and protected is beneficial not only for the consumers but also for the businesses as well, since consumers will be able to make informed choices due to the availability of unbiased accurate information on the products and services.
Consumer Protection Regime in the UAE
The UAE, being one of the most prominent shopping hubs globally, spares no efforts in protecting the interests of its consumers and instilling confidence in the market.
The UAE Federal Law Number 24 of 2006
The consumer protection regime is promulgated under the UAE Federal Law 24 of 2006 (“Law”), which defined the rights and obligations of the players in the market. Under the Law, Consumers are granted the following rights:
- Right to Safety – the right to be protected from any hazardous product, production process or service.
- Right to Know – the right to have access to accurate information regarding any product or service, such as the origin of products, ingredients, expiry dates, expected use/dosage and any apparent risks, etc.
- Right to Choose – the right to have access to multiple options. This right also, to a certain extent, protects the competition in the market for a particular service/good.
- Right to Representation – the right to express opinions regarding the pricing and availability of a good or service, as well as, other important characteristics.
- Right to be Informed – the right to acquire awareness, knowledge and requisite skills for the utilization of consumer rights.
A New Federal Law on Consumer Protection
On December 25th, 2019, the UAE Cabinet, chaired by the Vice-President and prime Minister of the UAE and Rule of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, approved the issuing of a new federal law pertaining to consumer protection. This law is in line with the Unified Law on Consumer Protection of the Gulf Cooperation Council Countries (GCC) and takes special cognizance of the technological developments, particularly the e-commerce economy. Apart from the aforesaid, the new law is also expected to:
- 1. guarantee stability of prices and consumer protection;
- 2. restrict practices negatively affecting the consumers, including controlling unnecessary increase in prices
- 3. ensure that the production and distribution of the goods/services is tailored to the consumers’ needs;
- 4. advocate sustainable consumption;
- 5. provide the necessary conditions for the creation of a free market with fair prices;
- 6. regulate the activities of the suppliers, commercial agents and the advertisers;
- 7. support and encourage the creation of a code of ethics for the producers and distributors.
The new law is at present pending before the FNC’s Financial, Economic and Industrial Affairs Committee for its approval, following which the law shall be subject to the approval of the UAE President before it comes into force.
The GCC Unified Law on Consumer Protection
The Gulf Cooperation Council has also promulgated a Unified Law on Consumer Protection, in order to achieve legislative harmonization amongst member countries. The Unified Law aims to provide adequate protection to consumers against the fast pace of digital enterprises, which may leverage accelerated growth and increasing technology to the detriment of consumers. The GCC Framework creates liabilities for defective products, as well as, obligations for repairs or replacements. Products in the region should be fit for the purpose that they are being sold for, as well be reasonably safe for the use of the consumer.
How can a Consumer raise a complaint in the UAE?
At the Federal level, the UAE Ministry of Economy’s Department of Consumer Protection plays the overall supervisory role in ensuring the protection of the interests of the consumers.
The said Ministry provides for a hotline (600-522-225) for consumers to raise any complaints regarding the infringement of their rights. Alternatively, consumers may also reach out to the Ministry via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
At the emirate level, the Department of Economic Development (“DED”) is primarily responsible for dealing with any issues pertaining to consumer protection, including the implementation of plans and procedures for the same.
A consumer, who wishes to register a complaint in DED – Abu Dhabi, can either call at 800 555 or send an email to email@example.com. It is also possible to approach the DED via its social media channels.
The concerned consumer will be required to provide copies of his Emirates ID/ Passport, contact information and documents proving the concerned commercial transaction (such as receipts/invoices).
In the Emirate of Dubai, a consumer can submit its complaint by contacting the Call Centre at 600 545555 or by filling the complaint form (and attach the necessary documents) on the Dubai Economy’s Consumer Rights Portal (www.consumersrights.ae).
The new law guarantees the protection of consumers, as well as price stability in the market economy. The Government’s participation in the economy also aims to have a prohibitive impact on any negative practices against consumer welfare, as well as prevent rapid price hikes. By regulating advertisers, suppliers and commercial agents, and promoting consumer rights against the advent of e-commerce, the UAE Government has taken a positive step that should surely bolster the faith of consumers in the legal framework.
Adv. Sruthi Konnangath
Corporate & Commercial – Intellectual Property