The new anti-fraud law no 16 / 2016 announced this week is an important affirmation of the UAE’s determination to maintain the high standards of public trust in the honesty of any commercial transaction that is essential for any modern economy. It is incumbent on the government to enforce a process that allows buyers to know what they are buying and if they are fooled then they have the right to seek redress as well as to take the criminals to court. And any such fraud covered by the law is not restricted to goods only, because the new law makes a welcome advance by making it clear that it also covers fraud in contractual jobs and services. Such a distinction is important in the UAE as the sectors of the knowledge economy expand and become an increasingly important part of the planned diverse and sustainable economy in the UAE.

The new law takes a significant step forward in combatting fraud by increasing the penalties to be more fitting to the present age. But more importantly, the law also enhances legal protection over a wider range of activities that have grown in importance since the first Commercial Fraud Law was drafted in 1979, as it has enhanced the protection for intellectual property rights, including brand owners. In addition, the new law to combat counterfeit and commercial fraud has taken particularly stern measures on any fraud to do with food or pharmaceuticals, where public health and safety are at risk, by reserving the maximum penalties for offenders in these sectors. It is also a significant advance in the law that it makes it a crime to promote any fraudulent or deceitful products through any media.

The enforcement of the new law will be backed by a federal committee to combat commercial fraud, with the authority to close down offending businesses, including any that might be in one of the U.A.E’s many free zones. The legal clarity that the new law applies to both onshore and offshore businesses is important and it will stop any confusion that may have existed in the past and allows any person or business that feels defrauded to enforce action against the offending party, wherever they maybe in the U.A.E. The federal committee will also set up sub-committees in the various emirates with powers to close down businesses and instigate a variety of penalties, as well as referring cases to courts.

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