7th APRIL 2015 - Vol.XXXVIII No.018
Business News

Crackdown on rogue traders is pledged

BAHRAIN is drafting watertight protection for consumers against rogue traders, who will face jail, fines or closure of businesses.

Culprits face up to three years in jail and/or fines of up to BD10,000 under a draft proposed and passed by the Shura Council yesterday.

Their businesses could be closed for good if they continue to break the proposed new consumer protection law.

The council's proposal will now go to the government, which is drawing up its own draft.

The two will be merged to create watertight protection for consumers, Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Hassan Fakhro told Shura Council members.

He said he had hoped that council members would wait for a few weeks for the government's draft, before submitting their own, but that the two were so similar that there would be no conflict.

Council members backed a draft proposed by council chairman Ali Saleh Al Saleh and four other members.

It stipulates jail sentences of up to three years and/or fines of up to BD5,000 for those who cheat the public by producing or selling sub-standard or counterfeit goods, or deliberately mislead consumers through false advertising.

The businesses concerned could be closed for three months, or have their Commercial Registration cancelled forever, depending on the seriousness of the case.

Those who import substandard or counterfeit goods face up to a year in jail and/or fines of up to BD10,000.

If the importer repeats the offence, the business may be closed for three months or its Commercial Registration cancelled forever.

Culprits will be obliged to replace the goods or refund the buyer. A new watchdog will be formed to monitor prices and goods being sold in the market, under the Shura Council proposal.

It would also arbitrate in disputes between consumers and merchants.

Dr Fakhro said the government's draft would be ready within weeks.

"We had drafted a law that was approved by the council in its previous term, but we had to withdraw to pave the way for our new draft, which we believe is more comprehensive," said Dr Fakhro.

"The draft covers everything related to consumer protection and the only difference in both drafts is that the ministry has defined its consumer protection directorate powers, while the council wants a separate authority."

Dr Fakhro said the ministry had no objection to the council submitting theirs to the government.

"We will look into it, but in the end we will aim to reach an agreement that will satisfy both parties," he said.

Meanwhile, goods subsidised by the government in Bahrain are the cheapest in the Gulf, said Dr Fakhro.

"We sell red meat for BD1 per kilo, while in other GCC countries it ranges between BD1.6 and BD2," he said.

"We are keen to offer basic products at the lowest prices possible.

"The problem is that we can't control every shop or store, because we don't have enough inspectors.

"We need thousands of inspectors to ensure that everyone is selling at the government prices.

"In the end, the law is enough to ensure that there are no breaches in pricing.

"We don't need police at every house to ensure people don't do wrong things.

"They are simply expected to follow the law and police intervene when there is something wrong going on."

Council financial and economic affairs committee chairman Khalid Al Maskati said that both drafts would come to the council.

"In the end, we will sit with officials to reach an understanding on how the law should be framed, so calls by some councillors to have ours scrapped and wait for the government's, is wrong," he said.

"The minister says that there are no major differences in the drafts, so passing it will ensure that when it is sent to parliament first, they will have both drafts to look into."

This didn't please council temporary inflation committee chairman Ahmed Bahzad, who said that this would harm consumers rather than protect them.

"This will delay the government draft, which is ready and will come to us within weeks," he said.

"Councillors should wait, to avoid confusion."

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