Trade descriptions are the details provided by the manufacturer of a product on the product label or on a leaflet packaged along with the product specifying the quantity, quality, production details and similar information depending on the type of the product. In case of a service it may be the description of the service as provided by the service provider. These descriptions are provided for the benefit of the consumers who purchase such products or services. False trade descriptions have the effect of misleading and defrauding the consumers. Providing such false and misleading descriptions is a part of the unfair trade practices. And therefore, in order to enhance the protection of the consumers from such fraudulent practices, raise awareness about and against such practices and to punish those who follow such unfair trade practices, the United Arab Emirates government has issued the federal law no. 4 of 1979 (hereinafter referred to as ‘the law’) and the Ministerial decision no. 26 of 1984 (hereinafter referred to as ‘the implementing law’) on the implementation of the said law.
The implementing law provides for commercial information to conform to the truth in all aspects. The commercial information provided maybe placed on the products themselves, or on or in the shops, inside them or on the wrappers, invoices, letters, advertising means or any means used in displaying the goods to the public.
Commercial information for this purpose is the information provided for the clarification of the following matters:
1. Number of the sold goods, its amount, measurement, gauge, weight, capacities, standard or specification.
2. The place or country wherein the goods are manufactured or produced, manufacturing or production date and expiry date.
3. The method of manufacturing or production of goods.
4. Components of the goods.
5. Kind or properties, place of origin or source.
6. Name or descriptions of the producer or manufacturer.
7. Existence of patents, trademarks or other industrial property rights or any other privileges, rewards, commercial or industrial distinctions.
The implementing law prohibits the trader from following practices that are considered to be misleading and thus unfair trade practices. The practices that are prohibited by the implementing law are as follows:
1. To mention the name of the seller, importer or his address on the goods or products is not permitted unless it is associated with precise written information by conspicuous letters of the country or place wherein the products or goods are manufactured or produced. This prohibition is provided as in case only the name and address of the seller or importer is provided, it would mislead the consumers to take the said address to be the place of manufacturing.
2. To propagate untrue information, or publish false information concerning the origin of goods, their description or importance, or to advertise misleading facts about acquiring a degree, medal or prize or to resort to any method aiming to mislead the public.
3. To use directly or indirectly incorrect or misleading information about the origin or source of the goods or the identity of the producer or manufacturer providing them.
4. To use directly or indirectly incorrect or misleading name of origin or to counterfeit the name of origin even if the origin of goods is mentioned, or if translation of the name is used, or if associated with words like kind, brand, imitation or alike.
5. To use counterfeited or imitated trademark or unlawfully affixed with his knowledge of this fact, or to change the truth under any circumstances. The trademark means any conspicuous means used to distinguish products of an enterprise from the products of other enterprises.
6. All activities contributing to equivocation or confusion by any means with the commercial names of the competitors, their products or their industrial or commercial activity.
Further in order to import goods, the trader importing shall have to provide a proof of the origin of the goods. In case it is found that the goods so imported bear a false or misleading mark or information about the origin of the goods (country where the goods are produced) or source of the goods (the country from where the goods are imported) and such misleading information is inscribed on the goods themselves, their wrappers or the packages, such goods are prohibited entry in the country. Further, there is also a prohibition on the import of goods or the entry of imported goods that do not fulfill the conditions required by laws and regulations that protect the origin and industrial property. There are incidents where the goods with original marks are prohibited from entering the country due to the presence of goods with counterfeit marks in the market claiming to be owner of the trademark. Hence, it is essential for trademark owners to be vigilant about the counterfeiters before exporting. It is advised therefore to have your trademark registered in UAE before exporting your products here.
Non-compliance with the regulations provided by the implementing law is subjected to penalty as provided in the law. The law provides for a sentence of imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years and a fine that may range between five hundred Dirhams (AED 500) and ten thousand Dirhams (AED 10,000) or either of the two penalties for violating any of the provisions relating to trade description and thereby misleading the consumers.
Further, the law penalizes the person who commits or attempts to commit any of the above described violations or crimes by the use of fraudulent or different scales, measurements, dry measures, hallmarks, seals or other examination tools or by using methods or means which may contribute to make the process of weighing, measuring gauging, or examining the product or the goods to be sold to the consumer and thereby mislead and defraud the consumer. The penalty provided for such a wrong is a term of imprisonment which may be for a maximum period of three years and a fine that may range between a minimum amount four thousand Dirhams (AED 4000) and a maximum amount of twenty thousand Dirhams (AED 20,000), or either of the two penalties as per the severity of the crime and the discretion of the court.
In case of recurrence, the penalty provided is similar to the penalty of the original offence as provided hereinabove.
Along with the traders even the consumers must keep an open eye for false trade descriptions and subject it to strict legal action or inform the appropriate authorities of the same. You may also consult a legal professional for advice on the best and the most effective way to deal with such cases.