By Elizabeth Broomhall
Customers returning retail goods can only receive store credit under new rule
Buyers returning faulty or unwanted goods to stores owned by Alshaya will no longer receive cash or credit card refunds under a new scheme that replaces refunds with store credit.
Staff in five Dubai Alshaya-owned stores, including Debenhams, H&M and Oasis, said they were only allowed to give customers store credit in exchange for returned items, even in cases where the goods were faulty, out of stock or repeatedly defective.
The new scheme gives customers 12 months to spend their ‘Alshaya gift card’ but also forces buyers to use the money within the company’s network of stores.
The ruling may also breach Dubai consumer protection laws, which state that stores are obliged to give customers a cash refund if goods are found to be faulty.
In a statement to Arabian Business, Mohammed Lootah, deputy CEO of the consumer rights agency at the Department of Economic Development (DED), said: “If the product is out of stock, then the stores are obliged to refund in the same means of payment and cannot force the consumer to get store credit.”
The manager of a River Island store in Dubai told Arabian Business that cash refunds were “strictly” forbidden in line with the new company rules.
“All the refunds now are [going] through this card only. Money back [will be] in card form, not by cash,” said a Boots employee when asked if the shop would refund a faulty product.
In a statement, Alshaya said: "Alshaya considers consumer rights to be of pre-eminent importance to its business. In line with consumer statutory rights, it is company policy across all of our stores that customers returning any goods which are defective, or have a manufacturing fault, are entitled to a full cash refund.
"For all other returns, we have recently introduced the Alshaya Card to provide extra value and convenience to our customers.
"This means that while previously customers had just seven days to spend a refund in the store where they made their original purchase, they now have a full year and can use the Alshaya Card across Alshaya's wide portfolio of retail brands.
"We believe this is something that our customers will love and appreciate, and that they will recognise that our policy is one of the most flexible and generous in the region."
A report by Dubai’s consumer protection agency in June showed the majority of disputes between retailers and shoppers arise from refunds and exchanges.
According to the DED, complaints from consumers soared in the first quarter of 2011, with 2,900 shoppers registering complaints against retailers, up from 2,300 last year.
The spike in complaints from consumers in the first quarter followed an advertising campaign aimed at improving awareness among shoppers of their legal rights, Lootah said.
I will question anything that I buy at these stores now. If I bring an item that I have bought that still as the tag on it in perfect condition, I should be able to get a cash or credit card refund. Obviously, this company is having financial problems and it trapping the customers in spending money at their shops. I don't like it at all!
The beauty about Dubai is choice, when it comes to consumer goods. If a store will not provide a refund for a defective product then I will boycott that store and go to an alternate store that does honor its obligations towards customers, as per Department of Economic Development directive. I think it is prudent before purchasing a product from now on, to ask staff about the store's return policy and buy accordingly.
This is a clear breach of Dubai's consumer laws. I await the first action against this mega chain, who has just lost another customer. It is easy to pick the Alshaya stores as they have their name on the glass at the front to prove ownership. In Dubai we are spolit for choice and do not need their brands.
I really hope that consumer protection comes down hard on them and stops them doing this. If the UAE wants to be seen as a modern country then it needs to also have the processes and procedures as Western countries.
This is really unacceptable. Consumers should have the right to return clothing even if it is not faulty, this is standard practice.
Yet again this is just another way of punishing people who work hard and earn money.
I guess its not financial problem, but as i feel its good way as there was 7 days refund and 14 days exchange, it will help the customer to avail the credit for 12 months instead for no. of days. Where as many stores do the same No cash refund at all. At least here we can get the credit back for 12 months. I comes from one of the largest consumer market of world where there is no refund policy at all.
@ Fahad This is backwards thinking. This is old fashioned thinking and it works against the consumer. Dubai used to be like this and stores started to work like in the West, but now they are going back to this old system for protection. They are protecting their cashflow. I notice where you are from, keep your thinking out of Dubai, it will destroy this modern society and prevent it from progressing forward. Your country is run on logbooks, who does that anymore?
I can't believe that such a large and well-known company is resorting to such low tactics to get money.
As a consumer it is totally within my right to change my mind and ask for my money back. How dare a company take that fundamental right from me?!!
Please don't give such baseless excuses such as "...allow us to give consumers 12 months rather than 7 days in which to spend their refunded amount and also lets them spend that refunded amount in any Alshaya store". We all know the truth- " We are a money hungry company and we want al we can get!"
From now on, Al Shaya shops will definitely be off my hopping list!!!!
dont buy.......dont patronise their other outlets and other product too.........let's do our bit......the rest will follow....correction begins with our attitude
Agree mihikka! I will join the boycott of AlShaya business.
Do they at least post their policy before customers pay? I'm thinking about tourist who may not be up to date on the latest info regarding this retailer.