Bahrain council stalls consumer protection bill
Manama, April 17, 2012
A bill that could prosecute traders, importers and advertisers for ripping people off in Bahrain has been stalled due to a dispute between Shura Council members.
Those who cheat consumers by falsely marketing products could be jailed for two years or fined BD3,000 ($7,957) under a new commercial fraud law.
It was initially drafted by the Shura Council, but members are now divided over the extent of amendments made by parliament.
One of the disputed articles talks about the punishment handed down to traders in Bahrain who allegedly change product labels, sell harmful goods knowing their dangers or play with the contents of products by adding or removing ingredients.
It states that violating merchants should be jailed for up to five years or fined up to BD5,000 - or both.
However, members dismissed the amendments, saying they were vague and did not provide a clear differentiation between products wrongly marketed from abroad or inside the country.
"The new bill deals with commercial fraud and all those involved in it, dealing in consumer goods like foodstuff, medicines and clothing," said council legislative and legal affairs committee vice-chairman and secretary Rabab Al Arrayedh.
"It defines normal consumer goods detailing their specifications and singles out cheated products whether altered, manipulated or counterfeit.
"There are huge consequences related to the effects those consumer goods may have on society, not just on people's health but monetarily also."
Al Arrayedh said the new bill would monitor the market in a bid to stop possible cheating by merchants, traders and advertisers.
"The punishments mentioned in this law are enough to ensure that those concerned would provide goods and products to the best standard rather than just think about their interests," she explained.
However, Minister of State for Shura Council and Parliament Affairs Abdulaziz Al Fadhel said businessmen were often unaware of the specifics of a product, which made it impossible to hold them accountable for any wrongdoing.
"Yes, they are responsible for the product, but there are many ways the manufacturer can misguide consumers by either not mentioning some information on labels or getting accreditation from the country of origin according to other specifics," he said.
"This is why we can't take those providing the service responsible for it and all we can do is ask for the product to be removed from the market."
The original proposal was supported by the Industry and Commerce Ministry, but its assistant under-secretary Ahmed Bubshait said yesterday the new amendments needed minor changes.
He said the law was an addition to the ministry's existing bills that aim to combat commercial fraud and provide consumer protection.
The Shura Council has referred the disputed articles to its legislative and legal affairs committee for further study.
It will continue discussions on the bill's remaining 13 articles at its weekly sessions. – TradeArabia News Service