JEDDAH — Commercial fraud cost the government and society a massive SR40 billion in 2010. This shocking announcement was made by Dr. Nasser Bin Ibrahim Al-Tuwaim, President of the Consumer Protection Association (CPA), in a symposium at the Middle East Strategic Studies Center earlier this week.
Dr. Al-Tuwaim revealed that fraud affects most commodities and 59 percent of locally made water bottles. He warned merchants against increasing their prices without any proper justification.
“Two months from now, we will start monitoring prices in the market. Anyone who notices a difference in prices from one week to another should call us at the numbers we will provide later,” Dr. Al-Tuwaim was quoted by Al-Watan Arabic daily as saying.
He explained that commercial fraud and cheating affect everyone and are therefore more dangerous than the direct violence of terrorism. To back up his assertion he revealed that 3,200 persons have been killed as a result of commercial fraud and cheating in the sale of tires for motor vehicles. He also said a warehouse was discovered three weeks ago which was selling 50,000 expired chickens a day. The racketeers did this by changing the expiry date and selling them to shawarma shops.
The CPA is currently working on a road map to control price manipulation. However this road map will not be ready until 2020. “Consumers can contact us by Internet or cell phone to enquire about the prices of any commodity in the Saudi market and report any violation,” Dr. Al-Tuwaim said.
He pointed out that merchants who import cheap goods are to blame for the deaths of thousands. The phrase “Sold commodity cannot be returned” only exists in our country, he said.
“However consumers have a right to return or replace any commodity and consumer rights regulations will be enforced strictly,” he added.
Consumers are now able to file complaints against ministries by filling out a form on the website of the CPA which will then send a copy to the ministry concerned. “If the CPA does not get a response within a month, it will take the matter to higher authorities and even to King Abdullah, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, as long as it will protect consumers,” Dr. Al-Tuwaim said.
He pointed out that the CPA has signed agreements with different local and international organizations and is fostering the culture of consumer protection via mosques, the Hai’a and the media. He also announced plans for TV shows which will educate consumers about their rights.
However, Dr. Al-Tuwaim complained that the budgetary allocation of SR5 million for the CPA was too low. He wants it to be increased to SR230 million. — SG