The Department of Economic Development in Abu Dhabi (DED) made over 124,000 field visits in Abu Dhabi in 2011 to inspect and monitor different forms of violations committed by commercial shops, companies and malls, aiming to protect consumers, and owners of trademarks and trade agencies. According to the 2011 Annual Report of the Commercial Protection Department, DED’s Commercial Affairs Sector, 8435 fines were levied on offenders, whilst over 24,000 different and variant counterfeit products were seized. Of this number, nearly 96% of the complaints brought by consumers were handled. Mr. Mohamed Rashed Al Rumaithi, Director of the Commercial Protection Division, Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development, said according to Law No. 2 of the year 2009 of the DED in Abu Dhabi, and due to the responsibilities it bears and the missions it undertakes, DED is keen on maintaining the business environment in Abu Dhabi as well as on making it free from any negative phenomena that could harm the business environment or have a damaging impact on the merchant or consumer rights. He added that based on the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030, DED’s strategy has drawn up a clear plan to promote the business sector and shift Abu Dhabi into a hub for investment and businessmen via a set of plans, programs, rules and regulations that govern the business market and ensure the application of the best practices in a manner that qualifies it to occupy a high position in international competitiveness reports. Mr. Mahmoud Al Balushi, Director of DED’s Consumer Protection Division, said responding to the consumer’s complaints and the inspectors’ periodical reports, the division received 2,181 complaints from consumers in 2011. Of this number, 2,058 complains were resolved, constituting 94.3 % of the total number of complaints. The complaints were mostly about the rising prices and counterfeit products, and the majority of complaints were filed at times of peak demand such as the month of Ramadan, the start of the academic year and government holidays.He indicated that the majority of complaints filed by consumers were handled and resolved in less than 20 working days, whilst only 3.7% of the total complains required longer periods to be resolved, something that reflects DED’s prompt response to consumers’ demands and its keenness to stand up for their rights. For his part, Mr. Ahmad Taresh Obaid Al-Qubaisi, Director of the Commercial Protection, said the total number of complaints received by the department last year amounted to 382, all being handled and resolved in less than 20 days. Of this number, 363 complaints – constituting 95% - were about the issuance of trade licenses. With regard to the complaints about trademarks, Mr. Ahmed Al Mansouri, Director of DED’s Trademarks Department, said the total number of complaints which the department received to this effect last year to 137, the majority being filed by owners of trade agencies and consumers. He emphasized that 100% of complaints were resolved, something that reflects the DED’s keenness on standing up for the rights of trade agencies and ensuring a sound business environment in Abu Dhabi. The Annual Report shows that the Commercial Protection Department implemented a comprehensive plan in 2011 to eradicate and prevent the reoccurrence of the negative phenomena and the wrong practices of commercial activities and violation of effective laws and regulations. According to the report, 62 forms of wrong practices were monitored, they were committed by owners of business firms in Abu Dhabi who violated effective laws and regulations, and as a result, 8,435 fines were levied on offenders. Of these figures, 430 violations were registered for business owners doing additional business without the proper license or permit, 126 violations monitored for doing irrelevant business activity without license, and 117 violations monitored for doing business activity without having the necessary premises. Among the violations monitored in 2011, 815 of business owners who failed to distinctly display the licenses in their headquarters. Another 189 violations incorporated the existence of closed cabins and dark places, or intentionally obscured vision in cafes, halls of entertainment, restaurants and cafeterias, or the existence of inner or outer tinted glass in cafeterias at an average exceeding 30%, or declining to provide sufficient illumination in these places. The report showed that 1,926 offenders were fined for putting up posters on walls and shop facades, and 1,007 offenders fined for hanging out an additional banner without a license, 283 business owners were fined for storing goods in the their shops or leaving them in corridors or opposite the shop facade, or outside the shops or inside residential units. Other 114 offenders were fined for failing to abide by the terms of security and safety by putting out banners in a way that endanger others and for putting out banner whose size is distinctly larger than the shop’s façade. According to the Commercial Protection Department’s report in this regard, 287 offenders were fined for using external spaces without a license, 235 offenders were fined for writing down the phrase “Sold items are non-refundable”, whether in the invoice or inside the stores, 275 offenders were fined for failing to distinctly display prices of items or services, and 28 street vendors were fined. In the framework of its plan to eradicate negative phenomena of commercial activities in Abu Dhabi, the Commercial Protection Department launched several campaigns, most prominently against halls of entertainment. Fines were levied on such places, for they incorporated electronic games that rely on luck rather than skill as a means of earning profit that ranges from 10,000 to 40,000 dirhams. Six of these halls were shut down for failing to meet the conditions regulating the operation of such halls.Campaigns were also launched in cooperation with Abu Dhabi Police and ADNOC Distribution against the violations in diesel sales, aiming to maintain the safety of the society, where nearly 37 fines were levied to offending entities that sell diesel illegally. According to DED’s Commercial Protection Department, the plan of eradicating negative phenomena in Abu Dhabi incorporated paying several inspection field visits to the random car markets. Visits were arranged in coordination with the Ministry of Interior, and necessary measures were taken in this regard. DED works continually towards the eradication of such a phenomenon.Among the negative phenomena which DED acted to combat and eradicate last year is the widespread of street vendors and random housing, and their subsequent impact on the society. According to the report, 70 fines were levied on street vendors last year, which resulted in the seizure of 80 tons of vegetables and fruits, and 1,500 pieces of clothes, all of which were delivered to the Red Crescent authority in the framework of the Blessing Maintenance project. Aimed at restricting using the project, or part of it, for housing purpose, DED launched field inspection visits that resulted in 117 fines levied on offenders. In the framework of its campaign in 2011 to develop the city’s appearance, the DED imposed 1926 fines on offenders for putting up posters and exhibiting goods.To enforce DED’s resolutions regarding moving commercial activities outside Abu Dhabi Island in order to improve the city’s appearance, DED has drew up a plan, in cooperation with Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council and the Abu Dhabi municipality, to move outside the city any car-related activities, building materials and activities that may cause harm to public health, apart from some massage centers there. Towards this end, 232 shops in Abu Dhabi Island were closed in 2011. The report indicated that in 2011, some 24,101 counterfeit products were seized in Abu Dhabi worth around 4 million dirhams.Towards this end, DED’s Commercial Protection Department, in coordination with the Abu Dhabi Waste Center, has disposed of the materials not valid for human use. The number of commodities that were disposed of was estimated at 16,125, whereas the seized usable commodities were submitted to the Red Crescent authority in the framework of the memorandum of understanding signed between DED and the authority to this effect. As part of the framework of its initiatives aiming at raising public awareness, DED’s Commercial Protection Department, in cooperation with the Wisdom House Co., organized in February 2011 a workshop to help consumers distinguish between original products and counterfeit ones. Apart from the said workshop, the department, in cooperation with the Emirates Authority for Standardization Metrology also organized a workshop last March 2011 where it made a presentation on the use of Al Bayan Foodstuffs card. In November 2011, DED, in cooperation with Al Shaali and Co. Law Firm for Legal Consultancy, organized a workshop with the aim of exhibiting some international trademarks and cosmetics and show the difference between original and counterfeit products.In March 2011, DED also participated in the Gulf Day for the Protection of Consumers by organizing a set of activities in cooperation with local and federal entities concerned with the consumer protection and major ports of sale in the country.The DED’s participation in this particular event came having a tangible presence in a number of malls in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and the Western Region, apart from the awareness campaigns it launched through which it acted to promote the proper consumer culture among consumers, and respond to their inquiries through direct contact. In addition, DED distributed relevant gifts and guiding printouts to raise the consumer culture. Due to its keenness on establishing contact with customers and consumers, last year the Commercial Protection Department launched “Our Partners” initiative with the objective of establishing good relations with partners, including investors and consumers as well as DED’s concerned visitors. Contact is continually established with partners via telephone, SMS, emails and fax so as to update them on the latest developments and answer their inquiries, and update them on the new resolutions, decrees and complaints. The Commercial Protection Department seeks to establish direct contact with partners when visiting the Customer Service centers in order to know their viewpoints and remarks, and provide proper solutions. Such viewpoints will be beneficial to consolidating the awareness campaigns for their commercial activities, whereby DED could draw up rules and impose restrictions to curb the negative phenomena and practices, and maintain the high quality services offered to consumers and investors.