When cheaper is not better

Saudi Gazette report

Two-, five- and ten-riyal stores have proven to be a huge success Kingdomwide thanks to their popularity with people looking to buy anything from stationary to kitchenware on a budget. Such stores usually sell low-quality goods imported from Asian markets but many also sell counterfeit goods including electrical appliances, watches, purses and cosmetics, products that are not only illegal but often dangerous, Al-Riyadh daily reports.

Economist Barjas Al-Barjas said current laws are to blame for the proliferation of counterfeit goods in the local markets because they are the reason why many merchants do not hesitate to go to any extent in order to make a profit. The laws do not take social responsibility into account and do not impose penalties on the import of cheap goods and on customs officers who give clearance to these goods and allow merchants to sell them in the markets.

“All counterfeit goods are harmful but some like fake watches and diamonds are less harmful than power strips, which can cause fires and destroy property. Fake cosmetics can cause skin problems while fake spare parts can result in tragic accidents,” Al-Barjas explained.

Nasser Al-Qarawee, director of Saudi Study and Research Center, said this problem started 40 years ago during the oil boom. At the time, according to Al-Qarawee, many merchants ventured into various business projects and imported low-priced goods first from Spain, Germany and a number of European countries and decades later from China.

“Those merchants were looking to make quick money and improve their profit margins by taking advantage of the fact that the laws of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry do not impose penalties on importers of such fake goods. Besides, the general public was also looking for cheaper goods and therefore would buy a low-quality cheap product instead of a high-quality alternative,” he explained.

Al-Qarawee blamed Saudi merchants for importing such goods from China and flooding the market with them and for deceiving customers by selling them goods that might pose a danger to their health.

He called for intensive media awareness campaigns to educate the general public on the potential dangers of fake goods. The campaigns should also target women because many women tend to buy cheap make-up products, not knowing these products can cause cancer as they are made of low-quality materials.

Dr. Abdulwahab Al-Qahtani, associate professor in the College of Industrial Management at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, called on the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to exercise greater control on the import of fake goods. “The Kingdom is a signatory to the World Trade Organization’s agreements, which stipulate that penalties for importing fake goods, especially cheap imitations of well-known brands, and selling them in local markets,” he said while cautioning parents against buying cheap toys because they can be fatal to their children’s health.

Dr. Fahd Al-Tayar, associate professor of sociology at King Khalid Military College, said due to the obsession with wearing and using products of well-known brands, many people opt to buy counterfeit products because they are a cheaper alternative. “Unfortunately, they put exterior appearance before their health.”

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