The Consumer Protection Department at the Ministry of Economy says there should not be big variations in prices of products across the market as all prices cannot be increased unless approved by the ministry. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: Food outlets and restaurants in the UAE are charging exorbitant amounts for bottled water as the government price caps are applicable only to groceries and supermarkets.

While the cost of a small bottle of water costs 90 fils in supermarkets, the price in restaurants can be from Dh8 to Dh22, a Gulf News survey found. The big difference was also found in the prices of soft drinks – a Dh1 drink in a supermarket was Dh20 in high-end restaurants in Dubai.

Abdul Aziz Bin Hathboor, Director of Consumer Protection at the Department of Economic Development (DED) in Dubai said the Ministry of Economy’s price cap is not applicable to cafeterias and restaurants. He said supermarkets and groceries are penalised for overcharging or violating the ministry-approved price list.

“Cafeterias and restaurants are service providers and the consumer has the choice to accept the prices specified in their menus, which the consumer should check before placing an order” Bin Hathboor said.

But Dr Hashim Al Nuaimi, Director of Consumer Protection Department at the Ministry of Economy, said the huge difference in prices should not be allowed and the Supreme Committee for Consumer Protection would intervene if complaints are raised.

The price variation in dining establishments is, however, linked to several factors, said Dr Al Nuaimi. Depending on the location, rent, and the year at which the prices were issued and approved, prices tend to vary, he added.

He added that the Supreme Committee for Consumer Protection reviews all submitted proposals. Dr Al Nuaimi also said that specific factors play a role in the price range of products, which include the location of the restaurant and its rent.

A small variation in prices of the same or similar products, such as water, can also be seen in the market as the year in which prices were fixed for each restaurant vary, added Dr Al Nuaimi.

Year-round campaign

In efforts to control price increases of food and drink, the ministry has launched a year-round campaign to monitor prices. Mohammad Ahmad Bin Abdul Aziz Al Shehi, Undersecretary, Ministry of Economy, pointed out that a special team is working in cooperation with Dubai Municipality and development departments to launch regular campaigns to regulate prices. The campaigns also aim to guarantee consumer rights.

The Commercial Compliance and Consumer Protection sector in the Department of Economic Development has established guidelines to resolve consumer complaints.

Consumers can submit their complaints by calling Ahlan Dubai on 600 54 5555.