Fake haven: Dubai authorities homing in on knock-offs sold on social media. Image Credit: XPRESS

Dubai: While the Department of Economic Development (DED) is clamping down on fake products sold on social networking accounts and websites, it also launching a campaign to make it easier for social media traders to do business in Dubai.

Last week, 8,894 accounts were shut in a crackdown by the department’s Commercial Compliance & Consumer Protection (CCCP) as part of protecting trademarks and eliminating practices that are harmful to e-commerce and the sustainability of businesses in Dubai.

The number of social networking accounts closed down in 2016 was 200 per cent higher when compared to 2015 in Dubai as more violators resorted to social media in 2016 by selling a variety of counterfeit goods, including bags, perfumes, watches, cosmetics, phones and accessories.

To make it easy to conduct legitimate business activities on social networking sites, the Business Registration & Licensing (BRL) sector in the DED on Wednesday launched ‘e-Trader’, which will allow GCC citizens with an UAE Emirates ID to do business officially.

The e-Trader licence can be registered under the name of a single owner only and the owner must be an Emirati or GCC citizen aged 18 or above.

Omar Bushahab, CEO of BRL sector in DED, said that the facility is a first-of-its-kind initiative in the region and is aimed to enhance transparency and regulate the practice of offering products and services for sale on social media.

He said that the e-Trader cannot open a shop or issue visas and in case of a legal dispute, the licensee alone will be held responsible.

“The initiative will have a significant role in promoting consumer confidence in shopping for products and services on social networking sites. Through this initiative, we aim to promote and facilitate doing business in Dubai and introduce new solutions capable of contributing to economic development in Dubai, and the UAE in general,” he said.

“The licence not only eliminates obstacles for social media users but also improves accountability and intellectual property protection. It enhances consumer confidence on one hand and on the other, it removes the risk of infringement on a reserved trade name or other intellectual property,” he said.

The licence is for 153 activities [electronics, perfumes, cosmetics, etc] and Bushahab said that about 3,000 e-Traders are expected to be licensed in Dubai this year.

“I think there is a mix of people doing social media business but probably more ‘mums’ using social media to advertise and sell from. This would be focused on small ‘cottage’ industry type of products such as arts and crafts. Most ‘mum’s would not be able or interested in owning a physical ‘bricks & mortar’ outlet so social media represents a relatively easy communication channel to showcase and sell products and services,” said Lindsay Wakefield, a retail analyst.

He said that any sensible regulation will help as it provides a benchmark and set of standards for ‘good practice’ that the final consumer can trust. “One of the key challenges in the DED launch narrative is the condition that all license holders must be GCC citizen. This may prove difficult or restrictive to the large expatriate population across Dubai,” he said.




How to apply

• Complete the registration for e-Trader licence by visiting the site ‘www.etradr.ae’ and enter their details, such as proof of identity, type of business activity and the account through which products and services will be displayed.

• Once the entries are validated and payment completed, the licence will be electronically issued.

• The licence fee is Dh1,070 per year.