Here’s how you can report ‘price gouging’

By Eudore R. Chand

UAE 2 April 2020: Dubai Economy has launched a ‘Price Monitor’ portal to track daily prices of staple foods and essentials making sure that consumers continue to get their basic needs at fair prices in spite of the precautionary measures being adopted in view of the coronavirus, Covid-19 pandemic.

A dedicated portal – price.ded.ae – has also been launched to strengthen communication with consumers and enable them to raise their complaints and queries on price increases faster and easier.

The initiative is aimed to empower consumers with improved awareness of their rights and limit the scope for price manipulation, Dubai Economy said, and advised consumers to file their complaints and queries relating to a price increase on the portal in Arabic or English, along with supporting images.

The ‘Price Monitor,’ will allow shoppers and businesses on a daily basis to track and compare the prices of 41 basic needs including rice, bread, flour, cooking oil, meat, poultry, fish, milk, eggs, water, salt, sugar fruits and vegetables and hygiene essentials such as sanitisers and face masks, said Wam.

Dubai Economy will also evaluate demand and supply in the local market based on the price list regularly and address any likely concerns among shoppers and traders.

Teams from the Commercial Compliance & Consumer Protection sector in Dubai Economy will co-ordinate with retail chains and supermarkets in the emirate to publish the daily list with the minimum and maximum price.

MoE, cooperatives discuss stock levels of staples

Mohammed Ahmed bin Abdulaziz Al Shehhi, Under-Secretary for Economic Affairs at the Ministry of Economy, held a virtual meeting with representatives of consumer cooperatives from around the country.

Al Shehhi discussed the level of the stocks of essential commodities, food prices, and the availability of disinfectants and detergents, especially face masks, as part of the ministry’s efforts to monitor the country’s markets.

Al Shehhi also called on cooperative societies to sell affordable masks to satisfy the needs of consumers and ensure price stability, stressing the need to report any supplier who intentionally tampers with prices of food and key items, such as disinfectants and detergents, and takes advantage of the current conditions.

Monitoring Manipulators

Al Shehhi explained that the ministry’s teams are present every day on local markets, in cooperation with local authorities, to monitor supply and demand and levy immediate sanctions on any supplier that manipulates prices or practices behaviours contrary to the law.

The representatives of consumer cooperatives noted the presence of adequate stock levels of various basic commodities while thanking the ministry for its timely efforts to overcome the various challenges facing supply and demand.

They also stated that prices are stable in the markets and all types of commodities are available in the outlets of consumer cooperatives to cover consumer needs, whether with regards to food commodities, basic materials, masks or detergents.

Abu Dhabi  implements incentive measures

Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (Added) has implemented several programmes and initiatives to regulate the private sector’s operations and ensure consumer protection.

This was announced during a media briefing by Rashid Abdul Karim Al Balooshi, Undersecretary of Added on ‘Studio 1’ programme, broadcast by the Abu Dhabi Radio Network.

He pointed out to the circulars that were recently issued by Added as part of its efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus, which included the temporary suspension of relaxation, massage and oriental bath services; gyms, cinemas, entertainment halls, malls and valet parking services, as well as hookah(shisha) in restaurants and cafés, with immediate effect.

Fixed prices of commodities

Al Balooshi further mentioned Added’s issuance of a circular ordering owners of licensed companies and establishments to comply with the fixed prices of commodities, in line with the Abu Dhabi government’s directives aimed at ensuring consumer protection. He emphasized that Added will confront and prevent any unjustified price hike during the unprecedented circumstances we are currently facing. The move falls in line with the directives of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, whereby medicine and food supplies are considered top priorities of national security, he continued.

Furthermore, Al Balooshi highlighted the main initiatives implemented by Added during these unprecedented circumstances, including a service that delivers commodities to consumers through the Integrated Transport Center in coordination with major outlets in Abu Dhabi in order to ensure public health and safety and to encourage community members to stay home.

The Department launched another initiative to prevent consumers from crowding at shopping outlets and ensure social distancing. Another initiative has been launched to address the needs of Abu Dhabi community with regard to food supplies in an easy and efficient manner in coordination with the Agthia Group, by converting wedding halls as temporary sales outlets. In this context, Added has achieved 100% implementation of remote work system, providing all its services online as part of Abu Dhabi Digital Month campaign, he Added.

Inspections

He also revealed the results of the inspection visits that were conducted between March 27 – 30, 2020.The Department conducted 3,450 visits and inspections at licensed commercial establishments in Abu Dhabi during this period, covering 1,737 restaurants and food trucks, 667 sales outlets and grocery stores 318 vegetable and fruit shops, in addition to 134 pharmacies.

Al Balooshi Added that the Department has implemented 241 campaigns to verify the quality of sterilizers and health products and 450 visits in joint campaigns with the Department of Municipalities and Transport and the Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority. He stated that inspection visits and campaigns have led to the issuance of violations against 18 commercial establishments, warning to 60 other establishments operating within the emirate, confiscation of 71,785 counterfeit and copied items, and distribution of 793 posters for awareness and circulars.

Al Balooshi noted that Added urged establishments operating in Abu Dhabi to list the prices of products and goods throughout the year and avoid price hikes during any occasion or emergency circumstances without prior justification. The Department further called on establishments to declare the prices in local currency clearly and place them prominently where the product is displayed and reiterated that any violation will be apprehended for imposing additional charges to the consumer, excluding tax or delivery charges.

Public-private partnership

The Undersecretary highlighted the role of businessmen, investors, company owners and consumers who jointly work towards a common goal of facing the current crisis, especially several private sector entities which have been providing services, support and assistance to the government and assist them in their efforts to overcome the challenges of the current conditions.

He also discussed the economic incentives launched by the Department in line with the economic stimulus package launched by the Abu Dhabi Executive Council, the most important of which is the initiative to exempt establishments from paying fines for trade licenses which has amounted to a total of AED246 million from 72,242 licenses.

As part of the intensified efforts to enhance the private sector’s contribution to the UAE’s and Abu Dhabi’s economy, Al Balooshi commented that Added is putting all its efforts to ensure the continuity of Abu Dhabi’s development projects in accordance with the directives of the emirate’s leaders.

In conclusion, Al Balooshi said that Added has reached out to consumers and made them aware of the necessary precautions through social media. They were also reminded that there is sufficient supply of consumer goods in all supermarkets. He further called on the public to commit to the instructions of the government to stay at home, implement remote working systems to ensure business continuity and public safety, and cooperate with the Department in monitoring and reporting what is happening in the community by communicating with the authority through various digital channels.

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