Dubai’s Department of Economic Development reveals that the number of complaints received has jumped from 2,900 to more than 12,000 in just four years, though it attributes the rise to greater awareness of rights.

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DUBAI // Consumer protection officials in the emirate have experienced a huge increase in the number of complaints they receive from the public.

Dubai’s Department of Economic Development commercial compliance and consumer protection (CCCP) sector dealt with 12,145 complaints between the beginning of this year and the end of November, compared with just 2,900 complaints in 2010. The increase is being put down to better awareness among the public about their rights.

“They mainly complain about non-compliance with the terms of the warranty policy and contract clauses,” said Omar Al Mehairy, director of development and follow-up for CCCP.

Figures revealed by the Department of Economic Development (DED) show that complaints have been increasing significantly since 2010.

In 2011 the department dealt with 6,939 complaints; 8,776 in 2012; and 11,414 last year.

The consumer protection section regulates the relationship between consumers and traders, said Mr Al Mehairy.

“As a first step, the section examines the case from the various points of view and according to the documents submitted,” he said.

“The next step is to try to find an amicable settlement and the question of penalties arise only in cases of non-cooperation or non-compliance.”

Despite the increased awareness among many shoppers, consumer protection officials still had to deal with a few common misconceptions.

“Often we find that consumers do not have enough awareness about the importance of their bills or invoices in resolving their complaints about a retailer,” Mr Al Mehairy said.

The public was encouraged to get a better understanding of their rights either by visiting the DED website or referring to the Blue Book published by the department.

Just over a year ago the DED also introduced its Sallety smartphone app, which provides regular price updates on a wide range of items, such as milk, eggs, soft drinks and baby products.

It has become an indispensable app for some people in Dubai, with 40,698 people currently using it.

“We have been adding new features to Sallety ever since it was launched. For example, the app has a growing number of stores and products now,” said Mr Al Mehairy.

“We will add a new feature soon to enable users to complete their purchases from selected outlets.”

Currently the DED has 57 inspectors spread across three departments that specialise in protecting the rights of consumers, commercial establishments and owners of registered trademarks.

But as Dubai continues to grow rapidly, Mr Al Mehairy admits it is difficult to keep pace with demand.

“With an increasing number of trade licences being issued in Dubai, the volume of work is increasing. But we have our development plans in place, including integrating technology and smart applications to improve efficiencies,” he said.

Juma Bilal Fairouz, chairman of the Emirates Society for Consumer Protection, said people were now better informed about their consumer rights.

“If you look over the last five or six years things have improved in relation to consumer protection,” he said. “These rights impact on every facet of life, from buying a car to electronics and utilities, and that is something that we need to continuously work towards.”

An important aspect for society was the rising cost of items and what could be done about it, he said.

Meanwhile, consumers called for clearer refund policies.

“There needs to be one clear refund policy that all shops must follow,” said Anton Fernandez, 31, from Lisbon, Portugal.

“At the moment some shops only provide vouchers while others only allow for refunds within a certain period.

“It needs to be one policy so consumers aren’t confused.”

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