Message for consumer protection department

By Dr Khalid A Al-Saleh

The consumer is not merely a buyer; they are a vital citizen and resident who deserves protection against exploitation that goes against our country’s core values. These values strive to ensure the overall security and wellbeing of everyone residing in Kuwait. One significant milestone in consumer protection came with the enactment of law 39/2014, which established the national committee for consumer protection, comprising 12 members from diverse sectors. The ministry of commerce went the extra mile by establishing a comprehensive department exclusively dedicated to consumer protection.

This department diligently oversees various aspects, even monitoring discussions on social media platforms to ensure consumer safety. What particularly interests me within the realm of consumer protection is item 3 of the law, which calls for the examination of proposals and recommendations submitted to the committee concerning consumer protection. I earnestly hope that my proposal reaches the esteemed members of the committee and the concerned department, and I extend my gratitude in advance for considering it.

Consumer exploitation in Kuwait has evolved beyond the conventional issues of commercial deception and price inflation. It has expanded into areas that demand a broader scope of consumer protection principles. As someone who has closely followed the complaints of citizens and residents, I have come across numerous instances where exploitation by tradespeople has proven to be more detrimental than traditional commercial deceit or price inflation. Today’s consumer is grappling with challenges stemming from Kuwait’s labor market, and safeguarding their interests has become an imperative necessity.

Currently, consumers are falling prey to unscrupulous laborers who are skilled in deception, often lacking the necessary knowledge and experience for the job at hand. In brief, Kuwait’s labor market has transformed into a refuge for those without employment, with labor communities forming groups that sometimes resemble organized crime syndicates. These groups communicate and collaborate to exploit unsuspecting consumers. Punishing these claimants (pretenders) alone is not a sustainable solution, as they are numerous and can easily find ways to re-enter the market. Instead, the most effective approach would be to establish small consumer centers in various neighborhoods.

These centers could include lecture halls for conducting basic courses on repairing electrical faults, changing plumbing fixtures, mastering fundamental welding techniques, painting, carpentry and more. Additionally, these centers could provide access to industrial tools for rent at affordable rates, allowing citizens to utilize the tools required for their household tasks. It’s worth noting that this proposal is not a novel concept, as it is already in practice in many developed countries. In such countries, individuals with questionable skills are not permitted to enter people’s homes to undertake tasks like replacing faucets, installing electrical fuses, or repairing unstable doors.

These tasks are handled by competent professionals, not individuals who once worked as store clerks before transitioning to trades. In contrast, in our context, we have become a testing ground for every unqualified laborer, using us to learn at our expense while causing more harm than good. Consumer protection must broaden its responsibilities and enhance its authority. Conventional commercial deception can be addressed relatively easily by avoiding purchases or seeking alternative products.

However, the exploitation in trades is highly dangerous, as it pertains to essential needs of citizens. Raising awareness, providing training and facilitating access to industrial tools represent the ideal solutions to combat this form of exploitation. This proposal is merely a suggestion, and I believe that the committee may have other ideas that could be even more impactful. Regardless of the approach taken, each effort contributes positively to the well-being of our people, the service of our nation, and, above all, seeks Allah’s acceptance.

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