The Ministry of Economy and Commerce (MEC) has made it mandatory for businesses in Qatar to use Arabic as the main language for issuing invoices, service lists, product labels and call centre services offered to customers.
Suppliers and service providers have to complete the necessary procedures by March 31, 2017, and failure to comply will prompt legal action against the violators, the ministry has said.
In a press statement on Monday, the MEC said it has issued Circular No 5 for 2016, which compels merchants, service providers and suppliers to use Arabic as the main language for issuing invoices and providing information on products and call centre services.
The circular requires businesses to dedicate at least one Arabic-speaking employee at reception desks at hotels, shopping malls, car showrooms, maintenance centres and other stores that require such services. Besides, they need to dedicate an Arabic speaker to process consumer complaints and enquiries and provide after-sales services at both customer service centres in malls or through call centres.
Stressing that the initiative fell within the framework of applicable laws and was in line with consumer rights as stipulated in Law No 8 of 2008 on consumer protection, the ministry said it launched the initiative after noticing an increase in the use of foreign languages when providing information on products and services, issuing invoices and providing customers with support, which led to a lack of transparency and difficulty in easily accessing information on various goods and services provided to them.
The MEC has called on all merchants, service providers and owners of major outlets that do not offer statements and invoices in Arabic to comply with the circular and localise data, billing and other services provided to consumers.
The initiative aims to promote the use of the Arabic language in a bid to earn consumer confidence by offering clients all the legal guarantees and opportunity to acquire all relevant information about products, invoices and exchange and return policies. The use of Arabic also allows consumers to communicate easily and enquire about their rights when purchasing a product or after acquiring it.
Article 2 of Law No 8 of 2008 stipulates that consumers have a right to access accurate information pertaining to the goods and services purchased or offered to them, while Article 17 states that labels and advertisements as outlined in Articles 7, 8 and 11 should be made available in Arabic with the possibility of offering them in another language.
Articles 7, 8 and 11 compel suppliers to use Arabic when labelling and packaging products, issuing invoices to consumers and providing description of goods and their prices and properties.
The ministry has granted suppliers and service providers time until March 31 next year to complete the Arabisation of bills, lists of services, product labels, customer service centres and call centres, stressing the importance of co-operating with it in this regard and complying with the provisions of Law No 8 of 2008 on consumer protection to avoid legal prosecution in case of violations.
The MEC stressed that after the due period, it would conduct investigative campaigns to monitor suppliers’ compliance with the circular. Necessary legal action would be taken in case of violations, it added.
The ministry has urged consumers to report violations to the Consumer Protection and Anti-Commercial Fraud department through the call centre: 16001, email: [email protected]
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In its circular (No 5 for 2016), the Ministry of Economy and Commerce has outlined the obligations for dealers and suppliers in terms of using Arabic to provide information about products, services and invoices.
For services (such as beauty salons, hotels, maintenance centres, travel and tourism agencies), and products (such as cars, electronics, clothes, toys and consumer goods), suppliers and service providers are obliged to:
• Dedicate at least one Arabic-speaking employee at reception desks in hotels, shopping malls, car showrooms, maintenance centres and other stores that require such a service.
• Use the Arabic language when providing service/product information on labels and advertisements to consumers, including their characteristics, with the possibility of offering such information in a second language.
• Dedicate at least one Arabic-speaking employee to display properties of the displayed service/product and how it can be presented to customers.
• Adopt the Arabic language when displaying service information to customers, including its advantages, disadvantages, price with the possibility of using an additional language.
• Adopt the Arabic language when displaying product information to customers, including its advantages, disadvantages, price and warnings pertaining to the risks associated with product misuse.
• Issue invoices in Arabic to document transactions or agreements with consumers regarding products or services.
• Adopt the Arabic language when issuing guarantee statements with the possibility of using an additional language.
• Hire and dedicate an Arabic speaker to process consumer complaints and enquiries and provide after-sales services at both customer service centres in malls or through call centres.
• Use the Arabic language (with the possibility of using another language) when displaying data pertaining to the use and installation of products or statements concerning the need to hire technicians in case the products are made of several parts.