Asharq al Awsat met the head of the Ministry of Commerce office in Jeddah, Mohammed Atiq al Harbi and discussed the prevalence of forged goods and the repercussions of the government’s hike in salaries.
Following the recent 15% increase in salaries, “A number of committees from the Ministries of Commerce and Interior were formed to uncover any violation and illegal price increase, especially with regard to food products”, the official said.
Q: What are the methods you are following to prevent prices from increasing in light of recent complaints about hikes to the cost of basic food stuff following the government’s decision to raise salaries?
A: The Ministry is constantly monitoring prices to ensure they remain stable. We are adamant that no excessive price hikes occur, especially following the ministerial decision to raise salaries by 15% which was abused by some merchants, as expected. In collaboration with the Ministry of Interior, we have recently established a number of committees to monitor market prices and uncover any violations or price inflation.
Q: Do you have statistics on the number of violations which were discovered in this respect?
A: Yes. Only a small number of abuses have occurred and all the cases have been referred to the Ministry of Commerce for further investigation. Our campaign has gathered strength recently and the authority overseeing commercial fraud has already prepared for the month of Ramadan.
Q: The Ministry of Commerce is sometimes accused of not carrying out enough inspections and having an inadequate number of teams surveying the city. Do you agree?
A: No, not at all. The number of teams on field visits around Jeddah has increased twofold with currently 20 teams operating in all neighborhoods.
Q: The authorities are trying to prevent fake goods from entering Saudi Arabia yet they remain on sale through out the Kingdom. How are consumers still able to buy counterfeit items?
A: Fake goods can be either imported or locally produced. They represent a violation of property rights and trademark. Ministry inspectors are doubling their efforts to locate these counterfeit goods and destroy the merchandise after confiscating it.
Q: Has the Ministry received any complaints from foreign companies damaged by the availability of fake versions of its products? Do you cooperate with these companies?
A: We cooperate and coordinate with the chamber of commerce through existing committees that combat commercial fraud and forging brand names.
Q: How are you tackling the increasing problem of checks without sufficient funds?
A: Special bureaus are looking into these cases diligently. Penalties exist against those who write cheques without having the funds to cover them. They range form fines to imprisonment.