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Sat 26 Nov 2005 04:00 AM

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Port crackdown on bogus building product imports

Checks on all products reaching Dubai’s ports could soon be made compulsory in an attempt to crackdown on the number of sub-standard and counterfeit products circulating the market.

Checks on all products reaching Dubai’s ports could soon be made compulsory in an attempt to crackdown on the number of sub-standard and counterfeit products circulating the market.

“The Dubai market is very open to products from all over the world,” said Ali Elian, head of inspection and certification at Dubai Municipality.

The Intellectual Property Unit, which was set up by Dubai Customs in May, is planning to adopt a risk-based approach to imports clearance, as well as implement a surveillance programme to monitor exactly how fake goods are reaching the emirate.

“Dubai customs is planning to introduce more systems to carry out risk assessment of all shipments. This will hopefully work in coordination with the other emirates, which would be a significant step forward,” said Edward Hardcastle, a lawyer at Rouse & Co. International.

Because of the open market conditions, Dubai has become a hub for counterfeit goods.

Dubai Municipality took steps earlier this year to help combat the problem by setting up an inspection and certification service.

Although in its early stages, the Dubai Central Laboratory Department has carried out a number of tests on construction-related products, including thermal insulation material and polystyrene concrete blocks, and issued trademark licences to 15 suppliers.

“Our scheme was established to protect the consumer who might not be aware of the specifications and requirements that a product must have. We need to raise public awareness and educate people about the importance of this issue,” said Elian.

The scheme will eventually encompass a wider spectrum of building goods entering the market, including electrical components, lighting and hand-held tools.

“They will either be tested and certified by our central laboratory, or by an external certification body, with which we have a mutual agreement,” added Mr Elian.

A team of assessors work according to ISO standards when testing samples. If a product conforms, the manufacturer is given a licence to trade under the Dubai Central Laboratory.

“We also have a surveillance programme in place to ensure that manufacturers comply with the standards set during the testing stage — this is something we watch closely,” added Elian.

“There are standards that developers, consultants and contractors should be following. In general, product certification should make it a lot easier for them to operate in this market.”

Dirk Pieter Smedema, general manager at Philips, said that government authorities should get even tougher on counterfeiters.

The electrical goods giant has fallen victim to several cases of counterfeiting. Its electrical components and lighting products in particular are easy targets.

“We have had raids — the Yemen one was very successful. We came across someone who tried to register our brand under a misleading name — the product and packaging were exactly the same,” said Mr Smedema.

Apart from the impact on the company’s image, the practice is destroying relationships with distributors, added Mr Smedema.

“It is the worse thing that can happen to your brand but it is difficult to fight. We have implemented ways of distinguishing between a fake and genuine product, but the authorities should be working better with companies and customs to stop this.”

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