Thursday, December 22, 2011

Oman’s Consumer Protection Law

This article provides an introduction to the basic principles of Oman’s Consumer Protection Law, which was promulgated as Royal Decree 81/02 (with executive regulations issued by Ministerial Decision 49/07) (the “Consumer Protection Law”). It is particularly useful for tourists, business travelers and expatriates alike to be aware of the laws available to protect the consumer of goods or services, as it is possible for anyone to find themselves a victim of a rapacious supplier.

What is the Consumer Protection Law?

Fundamentally, the Consumer Protection Law is legislation intended to ensure that suppliers and advertisers abide by the principles of fair dealing and credibility when dealing with consumers. The law does not apply to ‘business-to-business’ commercial dealings between merchants. The Consumer Protection Law requires that every commercial establishment upholds the principle of protecting their consumers’ interests through providing quality services or products. Violations of this law include, but are not restricted to:
• knowingly supplying unsafe products without suitable warning to consumers;
• refusing to accept return of goods (excluding perishable products) that are within the minimum return period of 10 days from the purchase date;
• refusing to uphold an existing maintenance agreement with the consumer;
• intentionally misleading consumers with false advertising;
• refusing to provide compensation for an injury that the consumer sustained from normal use of the product or service;
• charging a higher price than advertised; and
• refusing to provide the consumer with proof of purchase (or a receipt) that at a minimum shows the date and value of the purchase.

It would be easy to believe that the Consumer Protection Law only applies to the purchase of products, i.e., a car or a mobile phone. However, it is important to understand that the law applies to all aspects of the commercial world, including where a commercial establishment provides a service to a consumer – for example, a dentist providing a filling or a mechanic servicing a car. Whenever a service or product is provided to a consumer by a supplier, the customer is protected by the Consumer Protection Law (provided that the consumer has not misused the service or product) and, should the supplier be found guilty of violating this law, the establishment can be fined up to RO 5,000.

Why is there a Consumer Protection Law?

The Consumer Protection Law is intended to promote a level playing field of fairness and equality between the supplier and the consumer, and to protect consumers against monopolistic companies and deceitful business practices. The Consumer Protection Law ensures that consumers are supplied with correct information about the products and services that they buy, prevents the companies from gaining unlawful profit through dishonest practices, and maintains a fertile market for new companies to enter by restricting the scope for dishonest or monopolistic business practices.