One of the important focuses of Dubai Economy (DE) was highlighted during an informative session convened by Dubai Economy with various national business councils in Dubai recently. As a member of the Executive Committee of the South African Business Council it is very pleasing to watch Dubai Economy reach out to entities such as the various business councils to inform and update them on the latest developments within this department of the Dubai Government.
The focus referred to above is Dubai Economy's objective to create an environment for sustainable economic development to enhance the welfare and prosperity of Dubai by providing the business community with a local commercial dispute settlement service, whether by intermediation or by amicable settlement methods. The Commercial Compliance and Consumer Protection Sector (CCCP) of Dubai Economy has created a Business Protection Department (BPD) tasked with enhancing a culture of proper commercial dealings amongst traders in the Emirate and also to educate them about the rules and regulations established to create a mutually safe trading environment. The regulation of dealings between commercial companies and the resolving of their disputes is one of the BPD's most important functions, however the education of the business sector regarding the rules of business conduct is as important in order to mitigate the need for their intervention in order to ensure that consumers know their rights and retailers comply with their responsibilities.
Dubai Economy has established within the Business Protection Department, four main divisions, namely the:
- Business Protection Division
- Intellectual Property Rights Division
- Consumer Protection Division
- Commercial Compliance Division
Business Protection Division
The Business Protection Division has been functioning since 2015 with the capability of providing business to business (B2B) commercial dispute settlement services in Dubai and to educate traders about the laws and procedures required to create a safe trading environment.
B2B Complaints Process
Traders who submit complaints to DE in Dubai will initiate the procedure by contacting the CCCP to lodge the complaint. In the event that there is a legitimate grievance the complainant may pay a fee of AED2020 for the BPD to conduct a case study and refer the matter to mediation within 10 days. The mediation will take the form of a meeting of parties convened by the Business Protection Division which aims to settle the complaint amicably to reach a settlement. From statistics released by DE, 1555 complaints (of which 1366 were local and 189 international) with a total value of AED80 million were received during the first half of 2016 and of which 90% were resolved and settled by the mediation initiated by the Business Protection Department.
It must be noted that Business Protection Division is not competent to deal with any matters concerning returned cheques, any electronic crimes or construction/real estate and technical services issues.
Intellectual Property Rights Division
Intellectual property rights have a commercial value and usually give the creator an exclusive right over the use thereof for a certain period. To qualify as someone's intellectual property, a trademark however, must be registered in order to be granted the exclusive right to use it as your intellectual property. The Intellectual Property Rights Division aims to protect the intellectual property rights of companies, confiscate counterfeit products, protect trademarks owners and agencies, and protect consumers and businesses from commercial fraud.
Complaints process of infringement of trademarks and agencies
Upon receiving a complaint, the Intellectual Property Rights Division will conduct a case study and either approve the complaint or reject it. The service fee varies depending on the type of case study requested. A fee of AED2,000 shall be charged for a study of any dispute relating to trademarks, and a fee of AED2,500 shall be charged for a study case regarding any dispute concerning commercial agencies. In the event the Intellectual Property Rights Division approves the validity of the complaint, payment of AED1,000 to conduct an inspection of up to three sites, with an additional AED300 per site thereafter, will be required to be paid by the complainant. For the inspection of a warehouse however, the inspection fee will be AED2,500. Once the inspection service fees for the appropriate sites are paid by the complainant, the complaint is transferred to the Protection of Intellectual Property Section and the inspection is conducted under the authority of the DE. In the event of any violations appropriate measure are taken and goods will be confiscated as necessary. Once the inspection process is complete the complainant will receive a detailed report on the findings and actions taken by the Protection of Intellectual Property Section.
Registration of a Business Protection File
In the event that the owner of any intellectual property has a registered trademark, this trademark can be registered with the Intellectual Property Rights Division free of cost by opening a Business Protection File. All that is required is an official letter written in Arabic applying for the opening of a Business Protection File, accompanied by a colored copy of the Trademark Registration Certificate and a Power of Attorney from the intellectual property owner authorizing the signatory to sign the application. In the event that there are already fake products in the market, the intellectual property owner must also provide colored photos of the original products and the fake products showing the difference between the authentic and fake ones.
Consumer Protection Division
Consumer protection is afforded to persons in accordance with the Consumer Code of Rights contained in UAE Federal Law No. 24/2006 (Consumer Protection Law). The CCCP is charged with the responsibility to ensure that consumers and retailers similarly comply with the Consumer Code of Rights.
The Consumer Protection Division aims to provide information and advice to consumers and retailers/sellers about their rights and responsibilities. It also aims to investigate all complaints concerning unfair trading practices and resolving disputes that have arisen between consumers and retailers/sellers.
Consumer Rights and Merchant's responsibilities as contained in Consumer Protection Law Consumers are entitled to the following rights set out in the Consumer Code of Rights as follows: The Right to Safety: consumers have the right to be protected from products and services that may cause harm to consumer's health and/or compromise their safety;
The Right to Know: consumers have the right to be informed and be given accurate information about product and services;
The Right to Choose: consumers have the right to have a choice between multiple products and services with competitive prices and varying quality;
The Right to Representation: consumers have a right to express opinions in order to develop goods, services and encourage competitive prices; and
The Right to be Informed: consumers have the right to acquisition of knowledge through awareness programs.
Retailers and all merchants have a set of responsibilities as are set out in the Consumer Protection Law. All merchants must always:
- Avoid misleading advertising;
- Provide clear consumer policies;
- Provide clear information about all services and products to consumers;
- Provide a dated and detailed receipt for good purchased or services provided;
- Provide a correctly labeled product containing product details; and
- Provide warrantee details (if applicable).
Commercial Compliance Division
The Commercial Compliance Division is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that businesses are obeying all laws regulating the various processes of practicing economic activities in Dubai. This division aims to manage such tasks as, conducting field visits to business premises and insuring the commitment of businesses to compliance with their required obligations and ensure compliance with the laws regarding promotional events. It also provides CCCP sector services by providing a "happiness inspection" to businesses in operation for less than one year whereby the Commercial Compliance Division will assist businesses with compliance responsibilities as well as running 2-day training modules for businesses to send their staff in order for them to thereafter "self-inspect" the business' compliance requirements.
Useful Information and Hints
When using the services of the Commercial Compliance and Consumer Protection Sector and in particular when considering the recording of a complaint, that you will be required to provide evidence in support of any claim. It is recommended that when considering any purchase, of goods or services that you remember to:
- always obtain documentary evidence of the transaction;
- always ascertain the legal status of the business you are contracting with by obtaining a copy of their trading license or by logging into dubaided.gov.ae to verify the company details;
- ensure that the specifications of the received product conform with those mentioned in the receipt, bill or contract;
- when you are able to, conduct your business through banks and even letters of credit to secure your rights; and
- retain all documents pertaining to the purchase of any products or services until you are satisfied with it.
It is important to remember that:
- the complaint must be of a commercial nature;
- the complainee must be a trading establishment/company registered with the Economic Development Authority in Dubai; and
- the complaint must not already have been adjudicated upon or currently pending before any judicial, legal or administrative authority.
This initiative along with the other initiatives continually being introduced by Dubai Economy affords both customers and businesses access to a swift, efficient and cost effective dispute resolution process and is well worth utilizing.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.