Officials and inspectors of the Anti-commercial Fraud Section of Consumer Protection Department (CPD) at the Ministry of Economy and Commerce will now be able to use their smartphones as an additional tool to combat counterfeiting.
As part of its efforts to prevent entry and sale of fake goods in Qatar, the CPD has hired services of a software company to help identify and seize such products quickly.
The interactive technology will enable inspectors to upload pictures of counterfeit products in ‘TrAC’ database to be verified by brand owners far away. The Transnational Anti-counterfeit (TrAC) database is the mobile version of the ‘ipwhiz’ website, developed by the Dubai-based company and can be accessed by iPhone and Android-based smartphone users with assigned passwords and usernames.
The Director of the section, Yousef Al Suwaidi, the Supervisor of inspectors, Sultan Marzooqui Al Nasr, and 20 inspectors yesterday attended a workshop on ‘Combating Counterfeiting Using Smartphones’, organised by the Dubai-based Bayet Al Hikma Consultancy, under the ministry’s patronage.
“The software designed to identify counterfeit products quickly will help us implement CPD laws more effectively and enhance the performance of our inspectors,” said Al Suwaidi.
The workshop trained inspectors how to use the technology and upload pictures of doubtful products for verification.
With the use of the technology, the process of verifying a counterfeit that usually takes days or weeks can be done within hours.
“Over the past five years we have been developing this system, which we started with the Saudi Customs and have perfected it recently. Officers can use it to verify any product they think is counterfeit. The uploaded data can be viewed by the brand owner sitting on the other side of the planet very quickly,” Gareth Davies, Managing Director of ipwhiz, told The Peninsula on the sidelines of the workshop.
Asked if the company had plans to make the application ‘free to use’ by consumers to make the fight against counterfeits more pervasive, Davies, said: “That wouldn’t be practical as it will require many employees and resources. Currently, we are catering to Saudi, the UAE and Qatar, and intend to introduce it to Chinese authorities as a lot of counterfeit products find their origin in China.”
With the expansion of Qatari market, foreign businesses are increasing their presence here, which has led to a surge in the number of cases of commercial fraud being heard by local courts.
Legal circles say illegal practices being resorted to by some retailers for profiteering, like replacing product labels and not complying with Qatari standards and specifications, are among common violations.
According to reports, in the first quarter of 2013, the CPD received about 900 consumer complaints and conducted 3,000 raids on retail outlets to check their compliance with the consumer protection law. In May, it detected 101 violations. It recently announced the seizure of 15,000 counterfeit building materials that had labels of Stanley, an Italian brand.
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