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Sun 1 Oct 2006 04:00 AM

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Deep divisions allowing counterfeit accessories trade to flourish in Dubai


This month’s investigation into counterfeit mobile accessories trade in Dubai uncovered some deep divisions between key industry players and government authorities, with each blaming the other for allowing the trade to flourish in the back streets of Deira.

Counterfeit mobile accessories trade in Dubai costs the industry millions of dollars each year in lost revenues, and is a blight on efforts by Dubai authorities to promote the Emirate above other liberalised trading cities such as Singapore and Hong Kong, which also face an ongoing battle to stamp out counterfeit goods trade.

Counterfeit mobile accessories – particularly batteries – also pose a significant public health and safety risk.

The widespread availability of these goods makes a mockery of the government’s recently announced consumer protection initiatives.

Indeed, claims that the pending consumer protection laws don’t go far enough to protect consumers or penalise companies that breach the law have merit.

So too do claims that existing penalties for counterfeit goods trade are grossly insufficient.

At present, first time infractions attract a Dh5000 fine, while repeat offenders are hit with a Dh15, 000 fine and face the prospect of having their stores shutdown.

The sheer number of counterfeit goods traders based in Deira that operate in flagrant disregard of these laws highlights the contempt they have for the current system, and why the system is ultimately failing.

Meanwhile, claims that mobile accessories vendors and distributors are not doing enough to cooperate with local authorities to tackle counterfeit goods trade adds further weight to calls for the establishment of a dedicated organisation charged with tackling the issue.

With the involvement of key vendors and government authorities, the creation of such an organisation would represent a new spirit of cooperation and a unified front in fighting the spread of counterfeit goods, and would lend serious and much-needed weight to the government’s consumer protection laws.

The organisation could either form part of, or work in conjunction with, the new UAE Consumer Protection Society, which is currently being established by the Arab Federation for Consumers.

Ultimately, the existing approach to counterfeit mobile accessories trade is not working, and while the current fracas indicates a healthy level of debate over how best to tackle the issue, ongoing divisions will do little more than serve the interests of those involved in illegal trade.

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