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Online shopping: Ministry disowns responsibility
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 19 - 11 - 2015

JEDDAH — As online shopping websites increasingly promoting fake offers and prices, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry has disowned those who run such sites without a commercial record, shifting the responsibility to the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC).
The ministry said it could only prosecute the owners of such sites if they have real shops and commercial registrations.
Anti-fraud teams at the ministry could then fine the owners, close their shops and websites in collaboration with the CITC.
Sources said the ministry constantly issues warnings to the owners of electronic websites and social media accounts that run physical shops with trade licenses to avoid promoting fake offers or discounts. The ministry had imposed fines on several violators and closed their shops and websites in the past.
The source said the ministry has unveiled dozens of violations, including those using Instagram accounts to promote fake goods and counterfeited international brands.
E-commerce specialist Fahad Al-Abdulrahman said there were hundreds, if not thousands, of websites run by anonymous owners. While some were honest, others manipulate people into believing that what they sell is original and sometimes even a limited edition, he added.
"Unfortunately, the majority of clients are women and teenagers — they're usually after the latest fashion trends," Al-Abdulrahman said.
He said a recent market study showed that 3.9 million users conduct businesses online, amounting to a total turnover of SR1.1 billion a month.
The increase in the number of credit card operations online, as well as the drop in Internet costs, will see the online marketing all but increase.
"We wish the governmental sectors could work together to put an end to those messing with this type of commerce," he said. "The CITC must keep a close eye on suspicious websites and stop them. The ministry should play a role in defaming these websites and banks must create awareness."
The general-secretary of Media and Banking Awareness Committee of Saudi Banks, Talat Hafiz, said the banks run awareness campaigns to educate consumers at a time when online shopping has become common locally and overseas.
"Consumers should have a high level of awareness to be able to examine websites run by fraudulent networks that aim at stealing money and promoting fake products," Hafiz said.
He explained that banks had launched safe online shopping services that protected credit cards from fraud and theft, especially when used online.
"These cards allow people to shop online in many famous stores around the world confidently without the fear of becoming victims of fraud," he said.

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