How the rights of every Saudi consumer are protected
Along with recent Saudi economic growth and new openness to business, there is increasing interest in consumer behavior and desires — especially with the emergence of a certain breed of traders who exploit consumers by raising prices, using market dumping and overlooking the need for quality.
First, it may be useful to define what a consumer is. A consumer is an individual who purchases goods or products for personal use, such as food, clothing or tools; or a user of services of all kinds, therapeutic, recreational or other. Of course, there are also commercial consumers, such as organizations and businesses.
For consumers, the aim is to obtain the maximum quantity and quality of goods and services at the lowest price, but many traders have become complacent about these standards — and the main casualty is the consumer.
Sharia is the basis of law in the Kingdom, and fraud and deception in the marketplace are expressly prohibited in the Qu’ran: “Woe to those that deal in fraud, those who, when they have to receive by measure from men, exact full measure, but when they have to give by measure or weight to men, give less than due.”
To reduce the incidence of this phenomenon, which has a significant impact on all members of society, several laws have been introduced to address the importance of consumer protection. They include the Anti-Fraud Law, the Insurance Companies Control Law and the Mortgage Financing Law. Perhaps the most important of these regulations on consumer protection is the Anti-Commercial Fraud Law.
This criminalizes the conduct of any trader who deceives a consumer, or even attempts to do so, in any way, whether in relation to the nature of a product, its type or its essential characteristics, the source of the product or its weight, or in relation to the manufacture of a product that violates the approved standard specifications. Offenders may be fined up to SR500,000 and/or imprisoned for up to two years.
Inspection of traders and their premises is carried out by supervisory teams from the Ministry of Commerce and Investment, the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs, and the Saudi Food and Drugs Authority. Any infringement may be referred to the Public Prosecution.
Social media may also play a major role in marketing unauthorized or counterfeit products, so the Ministry of Media is currently working on a document to organize the work of social media influencers in Saudi Arabia. The document aims to ensure the commitment of influencers to avoid the advertisement of counterfeit products and goods.
Of course, consumers themselves can also play a part in addressing and combating fraud by acquiring a thorough knowledge of their rights. Any offense may be reported to the Center of Communications by phone on the number 1900, or through the mobile application or website of the Ministry of Commerce and Investment.
Dimah Talal Alsharif is a Saudi legal consultant, head of the health law department at the law firm of Majed Garoub and a member of the International Association of Lawyers. Twitter: @dimah_alsharif