OUTLOOK — By Haider Al Lawati — There is a kind of fear among the institutions and companies in the Sultanate since the beginning of the concrete steps taken by the General Authority for Consumer Protection against those who manipulate prices and contents of goods and products. We have come to know through the newspapers and the local media about the provisions approved by the Omani courts towards fixing the many issues connected with consumers protection. The institutions too, are now more aware of any violation of the right of the consumer. A few days ago one of the Courts in Sohar issued a sentence convicting a local beverage company of violating the Consumer Protection Law. The company was found guilty of selling polluted water under the guise of mineral water. The company was ordered to pay a fine of RO 3,000 and another RO 3,000 in compensation to the Attorney General. There are lot of details that have come to the open regarding this case as well as many other cases that have been seen by the Omani Courts in different regions of the Sultanate in the last two years. Citizens and expatriates are now more aware of these issues.
With the help of the Public Prosecution in different wilayats of Oman, many cases of violations of consumer rights have been forwarded and investigations conducted by the authorities concerned, before being transferred to the concerned courts across the country. The companies are being questioned for violating Article 9 of the Consumer Protection Law and other regulations on maintaining credibility. These steps come within the framework of the keenness of the Public Authority for Consumer Protection about the safety and health of consumers.
One of the other important matter concerning the companies in this regard is violation of the provisions of Article (8) of the Consumer Protection Law relating to the lack of commitment in mentioning the correct prices of goods sold. It should be noted that Article (8) of the law states: “The consumer has the right to correct information about the product he is buying and the service he receives, and in all cases the information must be found visibly on the item, along with details about the price, production, expiry date, the country of manufacture, the uses and qualities, the main components of the product, the degree of effectiveness, instructions for use and after-sales service, according to the type and nature of goods”. Therefore, the Public Authority for Consumer Protection has urged the traders and owners of commercial establishments to comply with the resolutions and laws passed by it in order to protect themselves from any kind of penalties and fines.
The suppliers must take into account the interests of consumers and their rights under all laws and regulations relating to this issue. If the companies are found to be violating any law, it is easy now to complain to the authorities about the products, their specifications and standards.
The Public Authority for Consumer Protection keeps their lines open 24 hours to receive any complain from customers. The buyers and suppliers have to understand that any adverse side effects suffered by the consumer due to bad and damaged products will create problems for themselves. Therefore, to create awareness, the Public Authority for Consumer Protection has warned the companies and institutions to stay away from fraud and price manipulation. It has stressed that companies must get rid of any item that might bring negative side effects to the consumers so as to avoid any danger to the health and safety of the people
The companies have to submit an application to the authorities if they propose to increase the price of any commodity or service, and give reasons to justify the price hike. The Public Authority for Consumer Protection has randomly taken products from the markets to check for any defect with the products imported into the country and to check the prices of different commodities available at different shops and supermarkets. Such steps aimed to detect fraud and manipulation in Omani markets are vital in safeguarding consumers safety. The authority has opened more offices in the various provinces to follow up on many cases of abuse of consumer rights and to prosecute the manipulators in the courts.