Consumers, know your rights

Do average shoppers in Oman fight for their rights when it comes to extracting value for the money spent on a product or service?
“Most consumers do look out for expiry dates on medicines or food packs. If it is a dysfunctional electronic product, consumers approach the after-sales services centres,” said an official of a leading retail chain.
He has attended a few workshops on consumer protection in the region.
“They are generally careful about products that are highly priced or those that could raise some health issues,” he said.
Consumer protection manuals, including in Oman, are comprehensive and consumers should make efforts to know their rights and duties. It is not just the right, but also a duty to protect the market from unscrupulous businessmen, he added.
“It is difficult to pin-point a reason, but people are either laidback and or do not have the courage to take up issues, especially if it involves a legal process,” said Venkatesh, associated with an audit firm, who once fought an unsuccessful battle for a new mobile phone.
“My phone had a battery problem and the retailer kept saying it was due to wiring issues at home. After several heated exchanges, he replaced the charger kit. Since the problem persisted, he sent the product to the service centre, which returned the device after 10-12 days,” he said.
“The problem was not rectified even at the service centre and the issue cropped up again after a few days. In the end, I gave up the fight, but I feel I should have persisted more so that I could take the case to its logical conclusion.”
“I recently bought a juice combo pack that was nearing the expiry date. But the product was already smelling foul at home and I just trashed it. It was wrong on my part to have done so. I should have taken up the matter at least on social media,” said Saleh al Balushi, a taxi operator.
According to Oman Consumer Protection Law, consumers’ rights are guaranteed for gaining access to correct information on commodities being purchased or used, or services received, for freedom of choice when selecting any commodity or service.
It also gives the right to receive a fair compensation for damages suffered by the consumer.
The consumer shall be entitled to a guarantee from the provider for any commodity and this guarantee shall continue to apply in favour
of the last consumer when the ownership of the commodity is transferred thereto. Any agreement in contravention of this provision shall be null and void.
The provider and advertiser shall provide the consumer with correct information on the commodity or service.
The provider shall clearly state the price, weight, production and expiry date, the name of the materials and components, the country of origin, and the number of the standard and other information as contemplated under the regulation in a clear manner.
The Public Authority for Consumer Protection (PACP) and Muscat Municipality have intensified campaigns to ensure consumer safety and value for their money, but it also necessary for consumers to report violations.
In its annual reports, PACP said there was a 16-per cent increase
in the number of complaints made by consumers as well as the reports and violations against shops in 2016 compared with 2015.
Statistics show PACP was able to resolve more than 81 per cent of the total complaints and reports presented.

Vinod Nair