A number of car dealerships and service centers in Qatar have been visited and penalized by the Ministry of Economy and Commerce (MEC) following customer complaints about poor after-sales service and long delays for repairs.
Officials from the MEC’s Consumer Protection Department recently undertook spot checks on service centers and registered seven charges against firms for being in breach of their obligations under Qatar’s Consumer Protection Law, according to the Peninsula.
The dealerships have not been named and the MEC did not reveal the extent of the penalties imposed.
However, it urged customers to report complaints through its website, which can be accessed accessed here, adding that establishments found to be failing would be punished.
The rights of consumers in Qatar are enshrined in Law No. 8 of 2008, provisions of which were updated in Law no. 14 of 2011.
Penalties for those who violate the law can include jail terms of up to two years and fines of as much as QR1 million, according to legal experts. Repeat offenders can face tougher sanctions, and their business premises can be closed for up to three months.
The Peninsula reports that Qatari customers have been complaining in Arabic daily Al Arab of the poor after-sales service they have received at some dealerships.
Some say they have to wait weeks for their cars to be repaired, while others complain of centers using fake spare parts and applying arbitrary pricing.
The current system of brand monopoly, where one dealership has the sole rights to sell an individual car make, has in part been blamed for the problem.
One resident, Said Fahad Al-Marri, was quoted calling for an end to this practice, saying:
“The monopoly must be broken and there should be open competition to protect customers’ rights.”
Earlier this year, the CPD reminded authorized car service centers that customers whose cars have been in for repair for more than 15 days are required to be supplied with a courtesy vehicle to use until their own car is ready to drive.
However, the Gulf Times reported that many dealerships do not follow this practice, leaving irate customers without a car for often weeks on end.
According to one official, customers can lodge a formal complaint with the CPD and penalties can be imposed on firms who are found to be infringing the law.
The issue of customer service – or the lack thereof – is a hot topic in Qatar, as many residents feel they are short-changed when it comes to a customer-focused attitude by sales staff.
Two years ago, The Edge business magazine ran a campaign to improve customer service and asked residents to share their stories.
The discussion provoked considerable response from readers, with many saying the problem involved unhappy workers and a lack of accountability, fueled by a system where staff can’t switch employers.