Finally a law that will protect consumer rights
CAIRO: In Egypt, many people find themselves buying a product at a shop then going home only to find that it doesn’t work, or reserving a stay at a hotel based on its brochure, only to get there and realize it has none of the amenities it claimed to have. Sadly, getting ripped off in this country occurs far too often. However, the country is finally planning to do something about it.
For the first time in the history of Egypt, a law has been created solely for the protection of the customer. Going into effect on Aug. 21, 2006, the law will make it easier for customers to get their rights. Through the creation of a center for customer complaints, customers no longer have to choose between the dire options of filing a lawsuit (which can take as long as two years to take effect and comes with large lawyer fees) or just live with the fact that they were conned.
According to Minister of Trade and Industry Rachid Mohamed Rachid, while currently there is a process in place for customers wishing to file complaints, the new law will make the process much more efficient and effective.
Under the new law, traders must allow customers to return or exchange merchandise within a period of two weeks or else face a fine. All a customer needs for evidence is a receipt.
The issues of the new law and the center for customer protection were outlined and discussed at length during a meeting that was held two days ago between the board members of the Cairo Chamber of Trade, with members of trade organizations, customer protection associations, as well as Hisham Ragad, consultant to Rachid on matters concerning the law.
Said El-Alfy, Rachid’s consultant on matters concerning the protection of customers, also clarified to the parties concerned that the law has not been created in order to punish or harm the trade sector, but rather, it was established with the aim of protecting both the customer and the honest trader.
Furthermore, the law will also act as an eyewitness to the interaction between traders and customers, marking unlawful transactions in the market and making sure they are dealt with accordingly.
By doing so, stated El-Alfy, the trade industry will benefit from this law, as it will serve to increase their activities as trading policies and laws become more transparent and customers start placing faith in traders.
El-Alfy was also quick to point out that for the first time in Egyptian law, the punishment or consequence of unlawful trading will not be physical (as in jail time), rather, the punishment will be monetary, with traders who do not take back or allow the exchange of faulty merchandise within the allotted 14 day period facing a fine ranging from LE 5,000 to LE 100,000.
In addition, the several existing customer protection associations and trade organizations will play an important role in implementing and enforcing the law, as a number of their members will stand on the board of the center for customer complaints.
El-Alfy also emphasized that the country, or more accurately, the government, will not interfere in any way with decisions involving the price of products, yet El-Alfy also pointed out that it is the right of the customer to know the prices of products in the market, and that is where the center will play a significant part, so that customers are aware of whether they are paying too much for a product.
Currently, Cairo encompasses more than 60 percent of all trade activity in the country, and according to Aly Abdel Ghafaar, a board member of the Ahly Association for the Protection of Trade Companies, which represents 31 international companies, there are 273,000 trade shops on a national scale, which is why the enforcement of the law in the capital is imperative to bettering the country’s economic climate.
While customers throughout Egypt are pleased with the changes, many are concerned that small complaints filed against big companies, or big complaints filed against small, local companies, will not be addressed.
Easing their worries, representatives from various associations that will make up the board of the new center have stated that regardless of the company or the monetary size of the product complaint, the customer’s rights will be protected and seen to. Just make sure you have your receipt.