In its latest move to protect consumers in Qatar, the Ministry of Economy of Commerce (MEC) has asked residents for help in catching retailers that manipulate prices or fail to clearly display the cost of their wares.
To make the process easier, the government has launched a new app for residents to report violations.
The ministry appears to be taking aim at retailers who charge different prices to difference consumers. It said the purpose of the new electronic service is to:
”Protect the consumers’ rights in knowing the price of goods and services displayed, without having to ask about it, and protect consumers from manipulation in prices or (being deceived) by giving different prices for the same commodity, to each costumer,” said a statement issued yesterday on MEC’s official website.
Additionally, the MEC said it will increase the number of “surprise inspection campaigns” to ensure shops are clearly displaying the prices of products.
How the app works
A video posted by MEC on YouTube said it’s the responsibility of consumers to not buy anything without a price tag and to report the violation immediately:
The video states these steps to file a complaint:
- Press on ”public services” option in the app.
- Click on ”consumer services”.
- Then chose ”how much” service.
- Fill in the form and submit.
A consumer is required to state his/her name, phone number and e-mail address in the complaint form as well as upload a picture of the unpriced goods and the banner including the shop’s name.
Once the grievance is filed on the app, MEC will then investigate the reported violation and take ”necessary legal procedures” against the perpetrators, according to the statement.
Laws and penalties
As part of the initiative to end price fraud, MEC also issued a directive to all shops in the state, reminding them to respect and abide by consumer protection laws, especially articles eight and 11 for law number (8) for the year 2008:
Article (8) includes that:
“The supplier shall, when displaying (or selling) any commodity, clearly label it with the price or conspicuously advertise the price at the place where the commodity is displayed.”
”The supplier shall indicate in a clear manner the information concerning the service he provides as well as its features, characteristics and prices.”
Penalties include imprisonment for up to two years and/or a fine of between QR3,000 and QR1,000,000, according to article 18 of the law. If the violation is repeated, the sentence shall be doubled.
The MEC puts considerable effort into policing retail prices in Qatar.
Inspectors have laid more than 50 charges against retailers this year alone for breaking promotional rules, such as failing to obtain a special licence in advance of running a sale or providing misleading information about the discounts on some products.
Additionally, the ministry typically fixes the prices of hundreds of goods during Ramadan. This year, the government ordered retailers to customers discounts of roughly 10 percent on many items to “ease the burden of extra costs on consumers.”
Meanwhile, government authorities are exploring an expansion of the MEC’s oversight powers by setting maximum prices for new cars sold in Qatar.
The price complaint feature is the latest service to be added to the MEC’s mobile app. In October, MEC started to allow investors to request or renew a commercial permit.
Would you use the app service? thoughts?