Amid an ongoing enforcement campaign, car dealers in Qatar have received a fresh warning from the Ministry of Economy and Commerce about selling new vehicles with minor repairs to unsuspecting customers.
Over the last six months, government inspectors have been cracking down on local dealerships for failing to inform car buyers that their new vehicle was damaged while being shipped and repaired once it arrived in Qatar.
Yesterday, the Ministry of Economy and Commerce issued a memo obligating car agents and showrooms to obtain “a written endorsement” from customers that proves they are aware of all repairs performed on a vehicle prior to its purchase, according to a statement by state news agency QNA.
Some dealers have previously told Doha News that this is already a common industry practice for vehicles scratched or dented during the shipping process. However, this marks the first time since the crackdown began that the ministry has publicly explained how it is interpreting broad provisions of Qatar’s consumer protection law banning “false or deceptive information” on all forms of displays, including food labelling and other consumer good packaging.
It’s also the first time that the ministry has itself stated that the dealerships were shut down because customers were buying cars without being informed that the vehicles had been painted or repaired to hide “bumps and scratches.”
Previous statements from the ministry only said that the showrooms were closed due to “commercial fraud” and selling vehicles that had been involved in accidents as brand new.
It’s not clear what prompted the ministry to launch its crackdown on auto dealers selling scratched or dented cars. However, it comes amid a broader effort to give car buyers more power and anecdotal complaints of subpar customer service.
Last August, several service centers were penalized following customer complaints about poor after-sales service and long delays for repairs.
More recently, auto dealers were told to relax warranty rules on new vehicles and not automatically void a customer’s coverage simply because they serviced their car at a third-party garage.
The ministry’s latest memo to the industry warns of “legal consequences” for not following the rules. According to the Al Meezan legal library, the showrooms that have already been sanctioned will be closed for two months if they are caught a second time and three months for a third offence.
Criminal charges are also a possibility under the law and can include a fine of up to QR1 million or a combination of two years in jail and QR3,000 fine.
At least one local auto dealer has said the issue involving his business is one of misplaced paperwork, rather than customer deception.
Speaking to Doha News at February’s Qatar Motor Show, Declan McCluskey – the general manager at Saleh Al Hamad Al Mana Co., which operates the local Nissan dealership – said that the incident related to two Nissan Sunnys.
“One had a scratch on the front bumper, and the other on the rear. Damages like these occur all the time as cars are being transported from manufacturers to retailers, and as a distributor, we fix the cars before putting them in the showroom,” he said. “All prior damages are disclosed to any potential buyer. In this case, one member of the staff forgot to mention the damages, and when the (inspectors checked our books, it came to light.”