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Consumer Protection Law in Palestine

Introduction to Consumer Protection in Palestine

In recent times, safeguarding consumer rights has become increasingly vital. Notably, deceptive marketing practices have garnered substantial attention from researchers and regulatory bodies worldwide, making consumer protection a key focus. This concern has significantly contributed to the concept of social responsibility within the business sector and has become a central theme in various discussions, conferences, and academic research. 

Consumer protection originated as a response to the unethical behaviours often observed among producers, traders, and intermediaries in the market. These actions often disregard societal values and ethical norms. This movement has been driven by consumer demand for government intervention and the establishment of protective laws to counter the perceived exploitation and excessive profit-seeking/ tendencies of various market entities. 

Palestine has had a fair share of the development of consumer protection laws. At present, there is Law No. 21 of 2005 concerning Consumer Protection in Palestine. This law renders consumer rights, emphasizing product safety, fair treatment, and access to accurate information. It establishes the Palestinian Consumer Protection Council, which enforces product safety regulations, mandates proper labelling, and outlines supplier responsibilities, aiming to ensure impartial economic transactions and impose penalties for violations.

Historical Context of Consumer Protection in Palestine

Due to the political instability and conflict in the Palestinian region, the development of consumer protection policies has always been a unique challenge for the government. However, the Palestinian Authority has made sincere efforts to address the challenges by establishing mechanisms and regulatory bodies that are protecting the consumer interest. With time, the Palestinian government has formulated a legal mechanism and framework that ensures consumer safety, fair trade practices, and transparent transactions. 

The first official legal document concerning consumer protection in Palestine was Law No. 21 of 2005, which elaborated the definitions and the rights rendered to the consumers for their protection. Later on, in 2017, 8 articles were amended, ensuring better enforcement of consumer protection practices. 

Key Consumer Rights in Palestine

Article (3) of Law No. 21 of 2005 outlines the rights that consumers are entitled to:

  1. Health and Safety: Consumers have the right to have their health and safety preserved when using goods or services in terms of quality and type.
  2. Fair Treatment: Consumers should receive fair treatment without discrimination from product suppliers or manufacturers.
  3. Association Formation: Consumers have the right to establish associations for consumer protection and be affiliated with such organizations.
  4. Clean Environment: Consumers are entitled to live in a clean and safe environment and receive goods and services that comply with technical instructions.
  5. Freedom of Choice: Consumers have the freedom to choose goods and services from alternatives, access fair transactions, and refuse coercive transactions.
  6. Access to Information: Consumers should have access to accurate information about the products they purchase or use, enabling them to make informed choices.
  7. Legal Recourse: Consumers have the right to seek remedies through immediate litigation or through Consumer Associations collectively to safeguard their rights and seek compensation for damages.
  8. Product Replacement or Repair: Consumers can request replacement, repair, or redemption of the price for faulty goods when they are used carefully.
  9. Invoicing Requirements: Consumers can request an invoice from the supplier that includes specific information such as the institution’s name, registration number, address, product or service details, price, quantity, and total value in the local currency.

Regulatory Framework for Consumer Protection in Palestine

Article 32 states that a consumer has the right to complain within one month of discovering any error or defect in the goods or services unless the goods are durable, in which case the period is extended to one year. The period starts from the day the defect was discovered.

Palestinian Consumer Protection Council

Composition of the Palestinian Consumer Protection Council: The council is comprised of representatives from various ministries, institutions, and associations involved in consumer protection. These representatives include members from the Ministry of National Economy, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Agriculture, Environment Authority, Palestinian Standards Institution, Chamber of Commerce, Industrial Federations, Union of Contractors, Businessmen Association, and five members from the Consumer Protection Associations.

The council is responsible for several crucial tasks, including:

  • Facilitating and coordinating the relationship between different entities concerned with consumer protection.
  • Supporting and strengthening the role of consumers within the national economy.
  • Contributing to developing policies ensuring the safety and quality of goods and services.
  • Implementing educational programs to raise consumer awareness and guide them towards responsible consumption patterns.
  • Developing specific plans and programs for defending consumer rights.
  • Monitoring governmental policies and advocating for consumer protection.
  • Participating in relevant regional and international organizations with similar objectives.
  • Preventing monopolies and ensuring the adherence to standards and quality of goods.

However, it is to be noted that in Palestine, there is no standardized method of filing a consumer complaint. It should be undertaken by the authority and the government to establish a standardized method and a procedure that a consumer can approach if his rights have been violated.

Palestinian Consumer Protection Law and safety of products

The Palestinian Consumer Protection Law addresses the safety of products and the responsibilities of suppliers. 

Article 7 emphasizes that products must conform to technical instructions, including accurate labelling, packaging, and information about the product’s nature, ingredients, and use, adhering to environmental safety regulations. 

Article 8 prohibits using tools or machines facilitating counterfeiting or those not meeting approved standards. 

Article 9 mandates the labelling of risky products with usage warnings. 

According to Article 10, the final supplier is liable for any harm resulting from unsafe products, unless they can prove otherwise. 

Article 11 outlines immediate measures for suppliers upon discovering defects, including informing authorities, recalling products, and compensating consumers. 

Article 12 stresses the inclusion of standardized information in Arabic on product labels. 

Furthermore, Articles 13 and 14 authorize authorities to issue instructions for product testing and allow the suspension or seizure of hazardous products. These regulations ensure product safety and protect consumer rights in Palestine.

Recommendations for Improving Consumer Protection in Palestine
  • Although a consumer protection law exists in Palestine, it does not cover all the essential aspects of consumer protection in Palestine; therefore, the government and the authority need to refine and insert more provisions that can be used to protect the rights of the consumer. 
  • There is a need to establish the rules and the responsibilities of both the consumer and the businesses to ensure clarity and accountability in case of dispute.
  • Education about the rights of the consumer is important for ensuring awareness generation among consumers, which can be done through workshops, educational programs, and public awareness campaigns.
  • Complaint redressal mechanisms are important and they should be timely and effective in giving resolutions. 
  • Focus on enhancing digital infrastructure, including initiatives to improve digital finance, employment opportunities, and e-commerce, which can significantly benefit the livelihoods of Palestinians. 

Right protections outlined in this law ensure that Palestinian consumers have access to safe products, fair treatment, and accurate information. The establishment of the Palestinian Consumer Protection Council and the regulations outlined in the law emphasize the commitment to ensuring consumer safety and enforcing supplier accountability.

However, there remain certain areas that necessitate further attention. Streamlining the complaint filing process, refining the existing legal provisions, and enhancing awareness among consumers about their rights are crucial steps that can significantly bolster consumer protection in Palestine. Additionally, integrating advanced digital infrastructure and facilitating e-commerce can play a pivotal role in improving livelihoods and fostering a more transparent marketplace.