Laws with teeth encourage safety

UAE consumers must beware: but nothing encourages change like laws with real bite

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One of the most long-overdue and welcome regulations may finally come into force across the UAE. And like all recent moves to enforce laws on the books, this one cannot come soon enough.

As The National reported on Friday, new fire-safety laws, including a sweeping set of penalties for fire hazards in homes and in commercial and industrial buildings, are set to be adopted by Civil Defence in all seven emirates from October 1.

"Fire-safety violation fines range from Dh1,000 to Dh50,000 depending on the severity of the violation," Lt Gen Seif Abdullah Al Shafar, the under secretary of the ministry, said on a visit to Sharjah Civil Defence.

It seems that hitting companies in their pockets is the most effective way of driving the message home.

The new fire safety rules are the latest in a series of recent moves to protect people and interest in the UAE. This month alone, officials have issued strong regulations aimed at stopping individuals involved in property scams against investors, and a school in Dubai was forced to close its doors and fined for hiring unlicensed educators.

The message in all of this is clear: illegal and unethical practices that have allowed unscrupulous individuals and institutions to cut corners, steal money, endanger the public, and in many cases affect the livelihoods of others, will no longer be tolerated. Laws like these - some on the books for years - will now have teeth.

To be sure, there is always the danger that too much - or too strict - regulation may prove counterproductive. And it is always a balance when enforcing laws that they be applied in an even-handed, fair way. But, where appropriate, enforcement can make a difference.

Where stricter enforcement has been most beneficial has been on the country's roads. Thanks to several road safety campaigns, casualties on the roads in Abu Dhabi and Dubai have dropped in the last few years. Some drivers are still overly reckless, but in many places roads are as safe as they've ever been, thanks in part to fines, black points and a constant police presence.

Avoiding rents scams, unsafe buildings or unlicensed schools will always be the consumer's responsibility first. But laws that bite are also an efficient way to affect change.