The offenders changed the phone screen, formatted the phone, added fake accessories and sold the phones as new devices. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: As many as 4,700 used smartphones, worth Dh7 million, were confiscated by the Department of Economic Development (DED) after shops were found swindling customers by repackaging them and selling them as new phones.

According to the DED, 18 shops, located in Souq Naif and Satwa, were found selling the refurbished phones.

Ebrahim Behzad, Director of Intellectual Property Protection Section at the Commercial Compliance and the Consumer Protection Division, said: “We also found two warehouses in Naif and Al Ramool which stored massive quantities of restored phones. The trading establishments were cheating customers by selling them as brand new smartphones. They would modify the phones and erase its databanks before putting them up for sale at competitive prices.”

He pointed out that the shops would package the old phones and sell them at prices ranging from Dh1,500 to Dh2,000, after refurbishing them and adding counterfeit headphones and chargers.

“This is considered commercial fraud and so these establishments have been fined. The management of intellectual property has carried out a campaign to crack down on a number of shops that sell mobile phones,” he said.

Refurbished phones found by the inspectors were confiscated and destroyed in accordance with the law and environmental regulations.

Behzad said these shops got their hands on the old phones from customers who gave the shops their old phones for new ones, only paying the price difference.

He said after taking the phones they would change the phone screen, format the phone and replace old parts with new fake parts and add the counterfeit accessories.

“We have also raised awareness among other mobile phone shops warning them that selling such phones is considered commercial fraud and shops who take part in this fraud will be fined.”

Behzad called on the public to be careful when purchasing mobile phones as it is difficult for them to tell the difference between original and refurbished phones. He also said there should be more campaigns by the consumer protection department to catch counterfeits.

Behzad said sources stationed at local markets notified the department of the shops’ illegal practices. “After the tip-off, inspectors zeroed in on the warehouse in Naif, where they found a large quantity of refurbished phones and counterfeit products.”

A number of disgruntled customers had approached the department, complaining that the purchased phones did not meet the specifications of the model they had paid for. “The department investigated the complaints and had the phones examined by experts,” Behzad said. “We found out that the smartphones were second-hand and did not meet the specifications of brand new models.”