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Inside the commerce ministry’s customer protection, supervision departments – Consumer is our priority: Assistant Undersecretary

KUWAIT: Eid Al-Rasheedi, Assistant Undersecretary for Supervision and Consumer Protection at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry speaks to Kuwait Times. — Photo by Joseph Shagra
KUWAIT: Eid Al-Rasheedi, Assistant Undersecretary for Supervision
and Consumer Protection at the Ministry of Commerce and
Industry speaks to Kuwait Times. — Photo by Joseph Shagra

KUWAIT: As part of its responsibilities, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry is in charge of consumer protection and inspection of various commercial activities. Kuwait Times spoke to Eid Al-Rasheedi, Assistant Undersecretary for Supervision and Consumer Protection at the ministry, to shed light on some issues related to consumers.

Work organization
There are two important departments at the ministry – the customer protection and supervision departments. “All other departments support the work of the sector. Regarding customer protection, there are inspectors who inspect stores to ensure they are following and respecting laws and regulations. These inspections are in all fields, including foodstuff, construction products, services, price gouging, inspecting co-ops and supermarkets and all other stores and malls to serve the consumer, who is our priority,” Rasheedi told Kuwait Times.

Numerous commercial inspection centers are spread all over Kuwait covering all governorates, and they work in two shifts – mornings and evenings. “There are also emergency teams working under our umbrella in Kout, Sideeq and Jahra, who work during holidays and during periods when other centers are closed, such as between 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm. We are in charge of anything related to the consumer,” he added.

The inspectors are well-trained. “After concluding training courses, inspectors receive certificates and some get judicial powers. We have increased the number of inspectors for better control and inspection. These courses teach the inspectors all laws and regulations and the way of dealing with consumers and the public. Also, most inspectors have to pass a course in the English language,” Rasheedi noted.

Consumers can also call the hotline 135 that receives complaints 24/7. “The call center receives complaints, gives advice or forwards complaints to the centers according to the governorate in charge. The staff advise the caller of the correct procedure he has to follow in his complaint, and we can also take legal action in some cases,” he said.

The Consumer Protection Department is in charge of giving approval for holding sales and their conditions. “During January 2016, the ministry issued 213 licenses for free offers and other promotions, which includes 183 free gifts, 26 free prizes and four real estate offers. The ministry also issued 620 discount licenses including 428 sales for companies, 52 special offers at supermarkets, 114 special offers at stores, 24 advertised sales and two for distributing vouchers and coupons. The total number of discount licenses for 2015 was 8,488, while the total number of discount licenses for free offers were 6,606 in the same period,” he pointed out.

Licensing these promotions is in favor of the consumers, who get a better chance to buy their needs at cheaper prices. “When a company or store wants to hold a sale, they have to submit their requests to the ministry. Through this procedure, the ministry can assess the credibility of the store, as some stores may hold fake sales without informing us. The inspectors then check the original price and the discount if it is correct. We have found violations as some stores announced 80 percent discounts on some items but the inspectors could not find those items, so they were penalized as this is considered misinformation. Also, another store manipulated prices when it advertised the price of a product for KD 1, but the inspector found it was being sold for KD 1.500 or KD 1.200,” Rasheedi said.

“These cases led to setting regulations for sales. In the past, any store could announce sales without restrictions or permission of the ministry, so there wasn’t any control. This year, the ministry has set stricter regulations for sales. These rules are in favor of consumers as we seek the best for them,” explained Rasheedi.

Social media
The ministry has also issued regulation number 27/2016 which includes all current and future social media, where people are not allowed to announce special offers without a license. “Otherwise, the seller will be penalized. This applies to individuals. In case of cheating or misleading, the affected consumer can submit a complaint and we then take action in cooperation with the ministry of interior to find his location and send him summons to attend the investigations,” he stated.

“I would like to advise people not to buy from social media and unknown sources, as people do not know where the food was prepared or cooked. We are now working closely with the municipality to eliminate this phenomenon. This also applies to other products which may turn out to be fake. The small projects that are supported by the government are different, as these are licensed and legal,” said Rasheedi.

Consumers can also complain against licensed vendors selling on social media. “Such a seller is easier to reach as he is registered with the ministry and we can reach him faster. If he doesn’t show up after being summoned, we ask the police station to summon him,” he added.

Complaint statistics
The number of complaints filed at the inspection sector was 2,820 in 2015. The hotline 135 received 37,000 calls in 2015, which includes asking for information, complaints and filing cases. The ministry also undertook deterrent actions that included recalling 59 models of vehicles from agents during 2015, a total of 48,759 vehicles,” he noted.

According to him, the procedure of complaining against a garage for instance starts with getting the invoice and warranty and submitting it to the consumer protection center, which transfers the vehicle to the technical checking department of the ministry of interior, which issues a report. If this report shows there is a defect, the inspectors try to solve the case amicably, and if this doesn’t work, the case will be transferred to the commercial prosecutor.

“I advise people to buy food from licensed restaurants and not unknown sources for their own safety. Also, for all items, I advise consumers to keep receipts of their purchases. We are working here to serve the consumers,” concluded Rasheedi.

By Nawara Fattahova

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