The Department of Economic Development has warned it will impose penalties on those who violate the rules of trade as stated in the Bluebook that sets out the rights of consumers in the UAE.
Omar Bu Shahab, executive director of Commercial Compliance and Consumer Protection (CCCP) at the Department of Economic Development in Dubai, told Gulf News that the department has succeeded in refunding a total of Dh14.3 million (around 5 million USD) over goods deemed unsatisfactory to the complainants.
The department dealt with more than 5,000 complaints filed by different customers against retailers based in Dubai in the first half of 2013.
“While retailers are free to adopt any of the commerce policies, DED will follow the regulations cited in the Bluebook which include product warranties, refunds, exchange policies and the bill,” he said.
While most of these complaints were related to commercial issues, others were filed against public service providers.
The biggest complaint was against an interior design company in Dubai at a value of Dh2 million, Bu Shahab said.
“A consumer complaint was filed against [an] interior design company which failed to comply to the contract between the two parties.”
“While it takes us a maximum of four days to solve any complaints, it was one of the most difficult cases and took one week to solve as it required  a lot of documents to verify the complaint.”
The DED found that the work commissioned didn’t meet the contract conditions and ultimately was a violation of the consumer’s rights.
“According to the consumer protection law and DED’s Bluebook, the refund or exchange of most commercial items and some of the services are part of consumer rights.”
The Bluebook, which contains the policies, aims to define a legal framework that coordinates the relationship between consumers and traders, shedding light on their rights and responsibilities.
Other complaints were filed against gold retailers with a refund worth Dh387,000.
One consumer reported a certain retailer who had misled by selling items whose quality didn’t match its cost.
In the first half of 2013, the DED received a total of 5,238 complaints increasing by 38 per cent from same period in 2012. Most of these complaints were reported against electronic and services sectors which represented 26 per cent each, followed by vehicle sectors which represented 12.8 per cent of the complaints.
Bu Shahab said the penalties of violating consumer protection laws varied from a warning on the first infraction to freezing of the licence of traders and fines imposed on retailers — ranging from Dh500 to Dh20,000. Severe violations can lead to closing down the business.
One of the biggest complaints was reported by a consumer who bought a vehicle and discovered a deficiency in the car.
While the buyer failed to get his money back from the seller who did not respond for a long time, the DED helped the consumer get a refund of Dh150,000.
“Our duty is to monitor whether the retailers are running their activities in a healthy business environment and meeting their obligations towards the consumers,” said Bu Shahab.