Fourteen retailers were fined for illegally increasing prices on goods on December 31, a day before VAT was implemented across the UAE.
Inspections were carried out by the Department of Economic Development in Dubai on New Year’s Eve after receiving several complaints from customers who reported price increases ahead of the levy.
“The outlets were found selling items with VAT before the set date”, said Abdul Aziz Al Tannak, director of DED’s commercial control unit.
He said inspectors were dispatched to sale points, shopping centres, restaurants and supermarkets to ensure retailers were not exploiting the 5 per cent tax.
“We implemented intensive inspection campaigns to crack down on offenders,” said Mr Al Tannak.
Ahmed Al Zaabi, senior manager of consumer awareness at DED, said multiple awareness campaigns were launched in December to educate retailers about how to comply with VAT regulations while protecting consumers’ rights.
“We work dedicatedly to protect the rights of consumers and fine offenders of the rules,” Mr Al Zaabi said. “Protecting consumers from exploitation is our priority.”
He called on retailers to co-operate with inspectors and warned them against exploiting the tax.
The Ministry of Finance previously said fines for overcharged VAT begin at Dh500 and can rise to Dh15,000 for repeat offences.
Mr Al Zaabi also urged the public to check their receipts and report any suspected offences.
The Federal Tax Authority said all receipts from businesses registered for VAT should include a tax registration number, the price that includes VAT and the amount of tax added.
Businesses who do are not registered cannot charge VAT.
Five complaints were made to DED on January 1 by consumers reporting illegal VAT claims in Abu Dhabi.
“We take consumers complaints seriously and carry inspections to ensure that shops are not increasing prices illegally,” Mr Al Zaabi said.
Six days prior, eleven retailers were fined for adding VAT to prices a full month before the introduction of the sales tax.
In Dubai, shoppers can take their complaints to the Ahlan Dubai consumer hotline on 600 54 5555. The Federal Consumer Protection Office on 600 522 225 serves all seven emirates.