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A REPORT ON CONSUMER PROTECTION LAW
Globally, there are laws pertaining to all types of disputes including the laws protecting the public against fraud concerning merchandise are prehistoric but the enactment of consumer protection laws started approximately fifty years ago under the influence of consumer protection movement and consequently consumer protection programme (Law Reform Commission, Mauritius, 2010). To discuss the Consumer Protection one must be aware who is consumer. Consumer in general indicates the person who pays money for services of commodities. As per the Consumer Protection law published by Ministry of Economy, the Consumer is “Anyone who attains any Goods or Services, with or without a return in order to satisfy his personal or others needs." The article in The Times 100 under the name of consumer protection published in 2011, provides the information that there are statutory rights of the consumers are Right to choose, Right to informed, Right to safety, and Right to complain. In the Consumer Protection Law of UAE 24/2006, there are rights of the consumers which are The Right to Safety, The Right of access to Information, The right to Choose, The Right to hear the opinion of the Consumer, The Right to a Clean Environment, The Right of Health Care, The Right of Compensation and The Right of Education.
There are different laws protecting the consumers in each country. Some of the laws globally famous are:
The Sale of Goods Act Sets out those goods must be: 'of satisfactory quality' 'fit for the purpose' for which they are intended by the seller.
The Trades Descriptions Act Sets out those goods must be as described. The description provides part of the contract between the buyer and seller.
The Weights and Measures Act Sets out to make sure that consumers get the weight or measure (e.g. for liquids) that they are offered
The Consumer Protection Act Provides for liability for damage by defective product
There are a number of bodies that have been set up to protect consumers in each country. These institutions carry out tests on range of products and publish the grades of the standards being maintained. In all countries every product or service that is bought and sold must meet standards. These standards include legal requirements such as those under the Sale of Goods Act, as well as those created by standardising bodies.
UAE has well established laws and The Consumer Protection Department of the UAE Ministry of Economy has been established to safeguard the interests of shoppers. The responsibility of the department is varied but most common which impact the population at large is fluctuation in prices. The prime duty of this department is to tracks and regulates retail prices and has rejected planned price increases for staple goods. The department came out with strategy to introduce the forum wherein the consumers can make the written complaint. (The Consumers using the computers can utilise the services of the website www.economy.ae, send an email to [email protected], or call the free phone hotline for the said complaint) (Explorer, 2010)
1.13(e) Consumer Protection Law Federal law no. 24 of 2006 concerns consumer protection. The law called for the setting up of a special committee to be known as the Higher Committee for Consumer Protection under the chairmanship of the Minister of Economy. Two representatives from the Emirates Society for Consumer Protection are to be included among the committee members. The Cabinet is to issue a decree to set up the committee and determine its prerogatives. It will also issue a decree for the setting up of a Consumer Protection Department at the Ministry of Economy and enact a law giving the Minister the power to take the necessary action to stop any unnecessary price hikes and to protect the interests of consumers.
The new law protects the rights of consumers in the market by giving them full freedom in making a choice and returning or substituting faulty items, as well as other rights safeguarded by the new law. The Ministry of Economy is setting up a special department to supervise the general policy on the protection of consumers and regulating prices. The department will also ensure fair competition in the market and will team up with other concerned bodies to ensure consumer awareness. The new department will do so by educating consumers about their rights and how to secure those rights. It will also set up a hotline in the ministry to receive complaints from consumers. The law states that commodities put on shelves for sale must have tags clearly displaying price. The law re-af"rms federal law no. 18 of 1981 and its amendments which deal with the organising of commercial agencies in a way that every commercial agent or distributor must give all the necessary guarantees that producers or commercial agents give on their commodities
THE AUTHORITY CONCERNED WITH IMPLEMENTATION
The committee is proposed to implement the regulations related to consumer protection. The federal law is under the Ministry of Economic and it is proposed to form an independent department called as a new Consumer Department (CPD), and the responsibility of the new policies will be of CDP. Though the CPD is under the Ministry of Economic but being an independent department it will directly implement the new regulations proposed by the Higher Committee for Consumer Protection.
The Article (2) of the Consumer Protection Law 24/2006 of UAE there is mandatory establishment of the Supreme Committee for Consumer Protection which will be chaired by the Minister. The committee will also have member’s representatives from the Consumer protection societies. The Article (3) empowers the Minister, based on the recommendations of the Committee to initiate necessary steps. For example in case of any crisis or unordinary circumstances in the market if there is unfavourable increase in the prices, the Minister, based on the recommendations of the Committee shall take the necessary procedures to limit this increase and to protect the Consumers’ interests. To get the decision implemented the Executive Order of this law shall specify the principles and the procedures to define the abnormal increase in Prices and the monopoly instances as well as the arrangements which shall be taken in this regard.
The clauses in the Act are confirmed by the first meeting held in Dubai during 2010, wherein the committee discussed measures relating to managing food prices, and the latest updates on the early alert system and the Ministry’s of health report about energy drinks and the illegal service charge levied by some restaurants in the UAE. The implementation of the decision was reviewed by the participants for the consumer protection on the service charge added to bills in restaurants and cafes, which was implemented on February 1, 2010 in all restaurants and cafes in the Emirates. During the implementation, The Ministry of Economy and local departments imposed fines on offenders and it is achievement that 95 to 98% of the restaurants and cafes in the UAE have implemented the decision. The implementation is got done by the Chairperson after decision in the committee as per Article 3 of the Consumer Protection Law. The committee also discussed the economic impact of fish production and consumption in the UAE. The Ministry of Economy decided during the first meeting to conduct a joint study with the Ministry of Environment and Water to address the issue and enhance fish production. The ministry also recommended building refrigerated and frozen warehouses to increase the stock of fish, regulate the supply and demand, and maintain price stability. The implementation is got done through the Chairperson who is a Minister puts responsibility on him and accordingly the Ministry of Economy has arranged several meetings with customs departments and other local departments to strengthen cooperation and exchange technical information and data on prices of food commodities. In the future meetings the Committee also presented a report on car agencies and the efforts undertaken by the Ministry to deal with the issue of manufacturing defects for cars. The ministry held extensive meetings with car agents in the UAE to discuss the problems faced by consumers and developed appropriate solutions, as per Federal Law No. 24 of 2006 of consumer protection.
THE KEY RESPONSIBILITIES OF CPD
The department will have the key responsibility of the department will be mandate to supervise the execution of general policy for the protection of the consumer in cooperation with the concerned authorities. To cooperate with other authorities to avoid unfair trade practices. Monitor the price movement and do not allow sellers to charge higher during increase in demand.
Based on the publication of the Ministry of Economy, UAE, the department of Consumer Protection covers the following areas under Article no.(4) of the Federal Law No. 24/2006:
To ensure the proper implementation of the General Policy to protect the consumer.
To coordinate and cooperate with the concerned authorities in UAE to deal with unfair practices.
To awaken the consumers about their rights and guide them for the claim. To bring consumer awareness amongst the users.
Monitor the price movements lessen the increase.
To take action to counter monopoly counter measures.
To attend to consumer complaints taking necessary action and forwarding to concerned authorities.
CONSUMER RIGHTS AS STATED IN SAID LAW
The Ministry of Economy initiates steps to ensure that consumers are aware of their rights and methods for claim of the damages.
The right to safety
The consumer right to safety is vast and it applies to the consumption patterns and to all goods and services. The market has for long made consumers believe that by consuming packaged food or mineral water, consumers can safeguard their health. This notion has been proved wrong time and again due to rampant food adulteration in market products. Right to food safety is an important consumer right since it directly affects the health and quality of life of consumers. For instance, the chocolates or syrups we consume, may be manufactured in countries as far as the U.S. or Australia (Wilson, 2008).
Consumers in UAE would have no control over or knowledge of the manufacturing practices of those countries and will have to rely completely on import regulations of the Indian government and food labelling. This makes the consumer right to safety a very important and critical issue for consumers. In view of this suppliers formerly were liable regarding the safety and security of their products as dictated by law but at this juncture suppliers will have the full responsibility to endorse products designs that are safely compatible with the different conditions of use by the consumer. The product is not only reviewed from legal angle but also through its performance bearing social responsibility towards consumers.
The Right to be informed
Means right to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods so as to protect the consumer against unfair trade practices. Consumer should insist on getting all the information about the product or service before making a choice or a decision. This will enable him to act wisely and responsibly and also enable him to abstain from falling prey to high pressure selling techniques. This will provide protection against commercial fraud, deception and misleading advertising and information on items’ covers and packages.
There was also a controversy about how Nike shoe company was using sweat labour in South Asian countries, paying its workers abysmally low wages for manufacturing shoes. Similarly, there was a ‘McLibel' case against McDonald's alleging that Mc Donald's generated a lot lot of unwanted waste due to its excessive packaging and harmed the environment. UAE based on WTO concern with establishing an efficient and competent information system which provides consumers with adequate information that help them make right choices, as well as protecting them of misleading advertisements and information stated on items labels sometimes is categorised as Right to Information.
The right to choose
Right to have multiple options of items and services in competitive prices and quality is called Right to Choose. The market offers wide varieties of the same product. There is possibility that more varieties of the same product just encourages false advertising claims and give the consumer a false sense of choice (Wilson, 2008). Various kinds of shampoos, soaps, and other cosmetics differ merely in colour, smell and brand image. By empowering the consumer with this right, it gives them opportunity to choose different types of products at competitive prices. Moreover, when there is no choice of products or the consumers are not given right to choose, the market will be dominated by vendors’ monopoly.
The Right to be heard
This right provides the consumers to voice their opinions and grievances at appropriate places. In case of the consumer being cheated and deprived of the right quality of service, the opinion need to be heard and given due attention by the authorities. Consumers should also have a right to voice their opinion when rules and regulations pertaining to them are being formulated, like the recent amendments in the Consumer Protection Act. There should be no system that consumer should be careful and vendors just sell the goods. This right ensures that the wishes of consumers are reflected appropriately in the formulation of trade policies of the UAE as well as in business organizations. It is also in line with agreement with WTO policies. The Right to heard is to express opinions to develop the goods, services, prices and availability.
The Right to Enjoy Clean and Healthy Environment
Consumers need to be protected from the disturbing impacts of air, earth, and water pollution which may result from the performance of daily marketplace operations. They have the right to live and work in an environment that does not threaten the health at present and future generations. There is growing global attention to environmental issues and the factors that are considered to be contaminating sources have made producers, vendors, marketers and decision makers realize the negative effects of certain goods. In view of this there is great demand for Environment protection as a basis to achieve social responsibility. It should be noted that this means the right of present and future generations to live and work in a healthy environment which is pollution & risk-free.
The Right to Satisfy the Basic Needs
This right empowers the consumers to have access to basic essential goods and services; adequate food, clothing, shelter, health care, education and sanitation. The events like child labour are social issues and to prevent them to become social evils there is need for the consumers to use the right of safety of basic needs. There is need for the Governments to provide suitable employment opportunities that grant individuals chances to enjoy life and make them interact more positively with others. This right entails consumers to obtain essential goods and services, such as food, clothing, shelter, education and health care.
The Right of Compensation
The right to a fair settlement of just claims, it includes the right to receive compensation for misrepresentation or shoddy goods or unsatisfactory services. It will enable the consumers to have settlement of their legitimate demands such as compensation for misleading, faulty goods or unsatisfactory services. This necessitates the provision of sound after-sale services as per guarantee agreements. Consumers are afforded an opportunity to have a hearing to voice dissatisfaction such that a resolution is reached and the complaint is settled in full and final.
The Right of Education
Consumers are extended the right to continuing consumer education that supports the benefits and enjoyment of other specific rights. Consumers have the right to some form of training and mastery of knowledge and skills needed to make informed decisions in the marketplace. Ministry of Economy has encouraged the consumer protection by
Establishing educational and training programmes to ensure this right for consumers.
Number of limited-income individuals through the development of training and awareness programmes designed especially for them.
Mainstreaming the culture of making customers aware of their legitimate rights usig all available methods at all levels of education
The consumers have the right to know the accurate information concerning the goods and services (ex: original products, for food to mention expiry date & ingredients, others). The consumer has the right to have multiple options of items and services in competitive prices and quality. The consumer has the right to express opinion about the prices and availability.
The seller has the responsibility to provide consumers with accurate information about the good and services. The seller will make refund and ready to replace the defective goods and incomplete services etc. The seller has the responsibility for labelling the products for the date of expiry and contents. Seller has the responsibility to guarantee service quality for the specific period of time.
THREE EXAMPLES AS INFRINGEMENTS TO CONSUMER PROTECTION LAW
If any seller or manufacturer manipulates or proceeds to manipulate human or animal foodstuff, drugs, agricultural crops, natural products or any other materials made for sale, and who launches or offers them for sale. The punishment is aggravated when such materials are harmful to human or animal health.
If the manufacturer decline to furnish the details of the process description of the goods. The consumers have the right to request to conducts molecular, physiological, chemical, radiation and microbiological lab analysis of food products.
Manufacturing of fake goods and goods causing harm to human or animals will be infringement.
GIVE LAST AMENDMENT TO THE LAW
The UAE has implemented the consumer protection with the signing by the President HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan of federal law no 24 of 2006. The law calls for the setting up of a special committee to be known as the "Higher Committee for Consumer Protection" under the chairmanship of the Minister of Economy. The law is amendment of the Federal Law no. 18 of 1981 regarding the Regulation of Trade Agencies and the amending Laws thereof; and the Penal Procedures Law issued by Federal Law no. 35 of 1992 and the amending Laws thereof.
PROTECTION OF THE CONSUMER IS A NATIONAL RESPONSIBILITY
It is the responsibility of the ruling Government and administration to look after the public. This is the reason that the Government has started campaign to raise awareness of the Consumer Rights Federal Law (24) 2006. This will encourage the ´Be Right know your Consumer Rights. This introduction of this law has paved the way for consumers and retailers alike to operate within a framework which will only benefit both groups with very clear guidelines on both retailers and consumers rights and responsibilities. The Dubai DED is the only government department dedicated to raising awareness of consumers' and retailers' rights and responsibilities and through the Commercial Compliance and Consumer Protection Division, the Department will also deal with any relevant disputes. However, the Government can only implement the regulations if there is full support from the consumers all over the country.
To protect the consumers UAE passed the Act 24/2006 and the act mandates the formation of Supreme Committee which includes the members from consumer protection societies also. The Act includes consumer code of rights, seller’s responsibilities, The Act has been sub divided in Articles and there are Articles for Penalties for evading the Act. The rights of consumers and the implementation thereof form part of the Act. The benefits of the Act will be promoting competition and fair trade. It will benefit consumers, retailers, business and community. The awareness of the consumer rights, consumer responsibilities and settlement of disputes are the focal issues. The most important feature of the case study is the Implementation. The responsibility of the implementation is empowered to the Chairperson of the committee.
The benefits of the Act are seen in the reports in the case of Americana AED 10,000 for violation of the Act and increasing its fast food prices. The Ministry of Economy remains vigilant in protecting local consumers. It recently penalized around 41 retail outlets for increasing prices during Ramadan. Its Supreme Committee for Consumer Protection also recently rejected plans to raise the prices of fast food meals, rice and cement.
Dubai Department of Economic Development (DED) launched the ‘Be Right know your Consumer Rights’ campaign in February, 2010. The main purpose is to make awareness to retailers and consumers about the Consumer Rights Law. The Consumer Code of Rights were issued under UAE Federal Law (24) 2006 by the Ministry of Economy. DED’s Commercial Compliance and Consumer Protection Division, has been charged with the responsibility to ensure that consumers and retailers alike comply with the Consumer Code of Rights, understand their responsibilities and, where resolution is sought, facilitates this process between retailers and consumers.