Consumers urged to learn their rights in the UAE

Lawyer says people either assume they have no rights or that they are the same as in their home country. He said the public has a responsibility to learn more about their rights.

DUBAI // Consumers must take more responsibility to learn and understand their rights, a legal expert has said.

Hassan Elhais, a senior partner at Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants in Dubai, said the UAE had the best consumer protection framework in the region.

But many residents were not aware of their rights because they have not researched them properly, Mr Elhais said.

“[Dubai’s] Department of Economic Development has a website and provides information for people in relation to their legal rights but many people still don’t know what they are,” he said.

“The authorities can only do so much in educating consumers. At the end of the day, the public have to take a step themselves and learn their rights.”

It is a common mistake for consumers, especially expatriates, to believe their rights are the same as in their home countries, or they believe that they do not have any rights at all, Mr Elhais said.

As part of a continuing campaign to raise awareness about consumer rights, he will answer consumer-related questions in a column each week in The National, starting today.

The new section has been welcomed by the public.

“I’ve seen the yellow notices at checkouts in shops about consumer rights but haven’t really thought much about the issue,” said Maurice Evans, 43, from Wales.

“It’s one of those things that you only think about if you have to take something back to a shop.”

Mr Evans said he had always been able to get a replacement item if his original purchase was faulty.

But others admitted that a lack of knowledge on their part had caught them out when trying to get money back.

“There doesn’t seem to be a set rule that every shop must give a refund if you want to return an item,” said Omar Akhtar, 27, from England. “Some shops give you vouchers, while others will give you refunds,” he said.

“I think there needs to be a clear set of rules that every retailer must follow. I’ve had cases where you can only return items during a set period of time and that can be a problem, especially if you get someone a gift and they want to change it.”

Canadian Samantha Grainger agreed that people had to take more responsibility for themselves when they are out shopping.

“Consumers need to be more active in learning their rights because the Government has made them available,” said Ms Grainger, 30.

“I think too many people just assume that there is one set of consumer rights that applies to everywhere in the world and that isn’t the case.

“If you’re buying something then it falls on you to make sure you’re aware of the returns policy and you are comfortable with that.”

Too many were quick to blame shop assistants if they did not get their way when returning the items they had bought, she said.

“There’s no point in just automatically assuming you’ll get your money back and then getting upset when the shop refuses because they have no obligation to do so,” Ms Grainger said.

For more information about consumer rights, visit the Department of Economic Development website at, or call the consumer protection hotline on 600 54 5555.

Published: January 21, 2015 04:00 AM


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