The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has seen a slow and steady progression in its legislative approach to handling product liability, and, while its current laws are not as developed or time-tested as those in other (more litigious) jurisdictions, it has moved towards a more regulated framework.
UAE Federal Law No. 24 of 2006 on Consumer Protection (the Law) was promulgated in 2006 (along with the Implementing Regulations), introducing direct product liability regulations across the UAE for the first time. The UAE has, in broad terms, adopted classifications of goods based on international standards. The rights and procedures for filing claims are provided for in the Civil Code, Commercial Transactions Code and the Criminal Code.
There is no provision for class actions within the UAE, which might give the impression that the region is secured and protected from the risk of claims by consumers. However, the Consumer Protection Department (CPD) and the courts are very pro-consumer in protecting their rights. If the Law is breached, then it is rare to see a ruling in favour of the provider.
The UAE is a civil law jurisdiction, which means that the laws and regulations are codified and courts are not bound to follow the prior decisions of superior courts. The majority of court judgments are not publicly available, making it very difficult to extract clear statements of principle from cases, especially as judgments are not intended to be authoritative statements of law.
The Department of Economic Development, and the CPD within it, also do not publish any data that can be used to measure the impact and degree of enforcement of the Law. Thus, it is difficult to predict with any degree of certainty how the Law is applied in practice, and to understand any trends within the UAE as to the success and prevalence of claims.
In the UAE, DLA Piper has in-depth experience in the food, pharmaceutical products, product recall and director liability areas.
The Law introduced (among other things) potential monetary fines for "providers" of consumer products in the UAE in the event that any "harm" is suffered by consumers in the "ordinary use" of the product. Claims by consumers for faulty products, or a breach of warranty, may be brought based on contractual or tort based principles, in line with the Law. The assessment of damages is likely to vary depending on which route is pursued. Tortious damages will be assessed by the court based on the actual damage suffered together with any consequential losses which were a direct result of the tortious act or omission. The parties are at liberty to agree in their contract what the assessment method will be. There is no scope for punitive damages, and time limitations do apply in relation to bringing claims.
Suppliers and commercial agents are obligated to provide repairs and spare parts for goods they sell, and any contractual clause waiving that obligation will be void. When goods are manufactured locally, the burden of such liability is to be shared jointly by the manufacturer and seller. When suppliers discover defects in goods or services, the Law obliges them to notify the CPD, relevant authorities and consumers. The Law provides that consumers have the right to recover for personal injuries and damages arising from these defects. It is not possible under the laws of the UAE to limit or exclude liability for personal injury or damage to property; any exclusion to this effect within a commercial contract may well be void as a matter of UAE law.
Penalties for failing to comply with the Law include financial penalties and, in some instances, criminal liability.
The Department of Economic Development of each emirate has created a CPD in line with the provisions of the Law, and any consumers who have a complaint will approach the CPD with their complaint, who will represent the affected party in any action against the supplier.
Since they were established, these CPDs have adopted a pro-consumer attitude and, in the event that any fault or wrong doing is discovered, will look to aggressively protect the rights of a consumer who has been harmed.
The safety and quality of products (whether produced in the UAE or imported) is regulated by the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology, which oversees all matters relating to standards, measurements, quality and standardisation of products.
The regulatory authorities for pharmaceuticals in the UAE are the UAE Ministry of Health, the Health Authority Abu Dhabi, the Dubai Health Authority and the Emirates Health Authority. These authorities monitor the licensing of pharmacists and pharmacies, the registration of pharmaceuticals and advertising guidelines for drugs. The municipality in Dubai deals with food related recalls.