The Consumer Protection Law of 2018 definitively eliminated the capability of sellers to rely on the principal that 'goods do not need to be returned or replaced' after imposing penalties in the event that replacement of a product is refused if it is substantially defected during the first year from the date of purchase, without any cost to the consumer.
The law also obligates the supplier and producer to ensure the quality of the products, provide the consumer with all of the data on products offered, and impose a penalty for providing misleading information regarding the nature, components or source of the products, as well as their production and expiration dates.
Moreover, the law introduced several penalties, including fines for defected goods which shall not be less than EGP 30.000 and not more than EGP 1.000.000 or twice the value of the good subject to violation, whichever is greater, for each supplier who violates the provisions of the Consumer Law, in addition to complementary penalties such as publication of sentences in newspapers for offenses and their perpetrators.
The Consumer Protection Agency is responsible for implementing the law and any related decisions, and is the sole authority responsible for developing plans and programs to protect consumers, and consider their complaints.
When taken to court however, the judge rules on the case according to their authority to adjudicate freely, and it is sufficient for the judge to doubt the validity of the accusation, to deliver an 'innocent' verdict, at his discretion, after assessing the relevant evidence.
We refer here to one of the cases initiated by our office, where the Public Prosecution Office has brought a car manufacturing company to trial on the basis that it has breached the right of the consumer to replace or refund the product (in this case, a car) during the warranty period, thus providing no guarantee as to the quality and safety of said product. Essentially, the court concluded that the manufacturer had deceived the consumer with regards to the 'nature and essential qualities of the product', leading the Public Prosecution Office to penalize the manufacturer in accordance with Consumer Protection Law no. 181/2018 and its executive regulations.
Here, the consumer informed Consumer Protection Agency that he had bought a car from a commercial agency, and subsequently found several substantial defects within it, and that the company would not abide by the product warranty. He added that he discovered that some parts of the car were produced in 2016, indicating that the car production date could not be 2019, as mentioned in the customs release. The Consumer Protection Agency reacted to this by assigning technical experts, such as professors from the Faculty of Engineering of Ain Shams University to inspect the car, who confirmed that certain parts of it were indeed produced in 2016. They also added, that subject to common market practice, car components cannot be stored for more than a year, eventually leading the manufacturer to trial.
At the trial session, the manufacturer proved that the car, according to the customs release, is a 2019 model, and that some parts of the car were produced in excess and it is normal for these to be stored for more than a year before the date of collection. Also, the report of the Faculty of Engineering did not refer to any Egyptian standard that prohibits the above, meaning that there is no criminal punishment except for an act that is criminalized, in writing within a law. The court acquitted the legal representative of the company since the model of the car, according to the customs release, is 2019 and the Faculty of Engineering report failed to provide sufficient evidence to convince the court to convict the accused.
Finally, the purpose of this article is to highlight that a conviction in criminal matters is based on certainty, not on suspicion and/or possibility, and can only occur on the grounds that the court questions the validity of the evidence at hand.
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.