Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Double Standards: Petrol & Consumer Rights

While reading this morning's  Gulf News Business section, I saw a photo caption on the continuing fuel shortage in Dubai and Northern Emirates which said "The fuel crisis in Sharjah continues as Emarat, Enoc and Eppco petrol stations faced shortages yesterday...Representatives of petrol retailers were unavailable for comment when contacted yesterday."

On the page facing this, there's a huge headline that reads "Consumer rights on DED radar."

Just look at it these two statements and you see clearly the double standards that exist.  The Department of Economic Department (DED) is quite rightly promoting their consumer rights campaign and ensuring all retailers adhere to a set of standards with regards to exchange policies, etc. for consumers and to also act a policing body when there are consumer disputes.  However, when major petrol retailers refuse to comment or give any sort of clarity, there is silence and we're supposed to accept that as the norm.
Image courtesy:

Something is seriously wrong here and if as expatriates we are to feel comfortable or if Dubai as an Emirate hopes to rope in more international investment, there has to be a certain sense of transparency.  Such headlines and lines outside petrol stations send the wrong message to potential investors in the country and despite all the progress that the country has made, a few negative headlines like this, tarnish the reputation of Dubai and the UAE internationally.  Lines outside petrol stations is something that you expect to see in third world countries and the UAE is definitely not a third world country.

There needs to be an end to the double standards that exist.  If as consumer we are to have rights, then we have the right to demand an explanation from the petrol companies.  If the existing petrol companies can't operate profitably, then open the market to competition and let petrol retailers enter the market and let market forces operate.  At the moment we're seeing clearly that protectionist policies aren't working.  This protectionism seems to be a lose-lose game at the moment.  Changing all of this is something that can happen in the long term but in the short-term, please open up, make a statement and stop acting as if it is business as usual.