New licensing legislation that entrepreneurs in Qatar feared would have added an additional bureaucratic burden to small businesses here appears to have been watered down by the Advisory (Shura) Council.
The draft law, which was first approved by the State Cabinet in November last year, requires all commercial and industrial stores, including online retail, to be licensed by the Ministry of Economic and Commerce (MEC).
The new rules would also cover street vendors, clinics, professional service providers and hospitality outlets such as restaurants, cafes, hotels and clubs, although the Shura Council has voted that fishermen and livestock vendors should not be subject to the same restrictions, according to Arabic daily newspaper Al Raya.
The proposed national licensing would be in addition to existing requirements for businesses to register in the municipality in which they operate.
At its regular meeting this week, the Shura Council made a number of amendments to the draft law, to give business owners a faster response to their petitions, and the opportunity to appeal against applications that were rejected.
If the legislation passes, applicants would be able to learn the status of their license on the same day they file for it.
Unsuccessful applicants have the right to appeal the decision to the MEC within one month, and the Minister of Economy and Trade should respond to that appeal within 15 days of receiving it. In the previous draft law, no appeals process was specified.
As previously stated, the license granted would be valid only for one year.
However the Shura Council’s changes include the possibility of extending the license for a year or more, according to the Peninsula.
Finally, the council scrapped the idea of exempting some businesses from the proposed new law as unfair.
The council said there should be a unified constant principle that applies to all business, to guarantee equality for all, according to Al Raya.
The Council’s Finance and Economic Affairs sub-committee examined the Cabinet’s previous proposals and made its recommendations for change, which were passed by the Shura Council.
However, the draft law is still some way from being passed, as the latest proposals must be sent back to the State Cabinet for its consideration.
Among the MEC’s powers is the right to regulate and close down shops that violate state laws. The Shura Council recommended that businesses should only be shut down for a maximum of 15 days, although this term can be extended for those that fail to meet the MEC’s requirements.
The provisional changes also give a store owner the right to submit a formal complaint about a closure, and the Minister should respond within 15 days of receiving the grievance, with written reasons for the shut-down.
Recently, the MEC has ordered the closure of a number of car dealerships for one-month periods, for violating consumer protection laws. The dealers had allegedly misled customers by selling as new cars and trucks that had actually been damaged and repaired.