Essential commodities like rice, sugar, flour and edible oils will be sold at 30 per cent less than the present prices in over 380 outlets across the country for a month from today.

In all, 50 commodities, including frozen chicken, tea, macaroni, yogurt, milk and sweets, will be sold at discounted prices, Dr Hashim Al Nuaimi, Director of the Consumer Protection Department at the Ministry of Economy, said on Thursday.

The discounts for essential products will continue in the whole of March, as part of the activities of Gulf Consumer Day today under the theme ‘Consumer Protection: Rights and Obligations’.

The ministry has received the list of products which will be sold at less than their present prices, and which will be showcased at sale outlets and cooperative societies in the seven emirates, he said.

He expected the number of outlets participating in the initiative to rise to 400 in the next few days.

“The initiative is in its third year, as we had started with fixing the prices of 600 items in 2011. Last year, the prices of 1,600 items were fixed, and today we are trying to fix the prices of 2,000 items.

“This year, we are planning to have at least 20 products sold at reduced prices for a year. That is, an outlet could sell a certain variety of a product at a discounted price every month. Thus, most of the varieties of goods in demand are sold simultaneously at reduced prices in the country’s markets.”

Dr Al Nuaimi hoped that this mechanism would benefit the consumer.

The ministry will cooperate with over 380 sale outlets in the country as a strategic partnership.

These 380 sale outlets cater to 90 per cent of the consumers’ needs, while the groceries and small supermarkets cater to only 10 per cent of the requirements, Dr Al Nuaimi said.

On complaints from consumers regarding Dh2 to Dh5 disparity in the prices of products sold at cooperative societies and other outlets, he said a price difference of Dh1 to Dh1.5 could be justifiable and acceptable to consumers, but an increase of Dh5 or more is exploitation and illegal.

The geographical location of outlets or coopertive societies in the emirates has nothing to do with the price disparity, it, more or less, depends on competition among these outlets, he said.

Dr Al Nauimi appealed to consumers to keep in touch with the department through the hotline number 600522225 and lodge complaints, if any. Legal actions will be taken against offenders after scrutiny and verifying the report.

“Fines against violating merchants and traders range between Dh5,000 and Dh100,000,” he warned.

The ministry had reviewed a number of applications from traders for increasing prices of some commodities and discussed the reasons for the hikes demanded. The reasons ranged from increased prices of the products worldwide, the rise in the cost of production and import, and the margin of profit.

Snacks, meals on campuses

The department is also examining the feasibility of regularising the sale of meals and snacks inside government and private universities. The move will be taken in the wake of complaints lodged by students on the higher prices of meals and snacks sold inside campuses, he said.