One would not be surprised if a local lawyer in the Middle East region is unfamiliar with the term "class action" or understand what it means. As most may know, a class action is a lawsuit that allows a large number of people with a common interest in a matter (which in most cases are consumer related matters) to sue or be sued as a group.
Such lawsuit is not recognised in most of the Middle East which means that if a number of people wish to bring a lawsuit, then each will need to file their case separately before the Court. This, of course, is not cost effective especially if those involved are, as is the case in most cases, consumers going against big companies. As a result of this, and also the fact that legal costs are not recoverable in this region, one would expect (especially for big companies, which going forward in this article will be referred to as "providers") that the Middle East region is a secured and protected region from the risk of claims by consumers. This is not completely true. In this article we will explore why such companies should not believe that they are protected in this region from consumers' claims by looking at the UAE as an example.
At the Ministry of Economy of the UAE (and each respective Economic Department), a department has been set up to deal with consumer complaints called "the Consumer Protection Department" (the Department). This Department deals with any complaint that a consumer may have relating to a product or service that it bought or received from a provider. There are no fees involved nor does the consumer need to involve a lawyer in the registration of such complaint which, accordingly, encourages the consumer to rely upon the Department to deal with their complaint. In dealing with the complaint, the Department has the powers to investigate and coordinate with the relevant authorities before passing a decision on the complaint pursuant to the UAE Federal Consumer Protection Law No.24 of 2006 as amended by Federal Law No.7 of 2011 and their Executive Regulations.
The parties involved in the complaint have the right to appeal against any decision issued by the Department before the UAE Minister of Economy. If a decision is issued in this appeal, the parties also have the right to object to such decision before the competent Courts in the UAE.
Despite the existence of the Department and the powers vested in it by law, a consumer has the right to refer any complaint directly to the component...