Counterfeit Goods Invade Damascus Markets

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Enab Baladi Issue # 92 – Sun, Nov. 24, 2013

البيع على الأرصفةAbdul Rahman Malik – Enab Baladi

Under the stress of everyday life, and the continuous rise in prices, Syrians have to count to a hundred before making any decision to purchase any type of goods. Because of the chaos of pricing the goods that pushes people to look always for the cheapest price, people also have to avoid opportunists who took advantage of this disordered situation of the markets by contaminating various kinds of commodities. There is a clear deficit from the ration institutions to stop this phenomenon in which its negative implication has exceeded consumers’ pockets to affect their health.

Hundreds of stalls spread today in the streets of Damascus city centre, in its main streets and traditional markets. These stalls transfer people to another world of cheap food and other products in which people suspect their originality. These stands sell one kilo of yogurt for 300 Syrian pounds, while it is sold for 550 Syrian pounds in other shops. Local cheese is sold at stalls for 400 versus 700 Syrian pounds in the shops. The list goes on to olive oil, tahini, milk and meat.

In a statement to ‘al-Watan’ newspaper, the head of the Executive Office for ‘Craftsmen Union in Damascus’ Marwan Dabas said that, “the local dairy industry today is in a permanent fraud situation which requires complete health control”. Dabbas pointed out that the raw material for the diary industry today is a fake milk powder that contains chemicals that have nothing to do with milk, and that is a major threat to the health of citizens.

And close to food stalls, there are other specialized stalls that sell cleaning materials, including detergent, washing powder, shampoo, and soap at very attractive prices that are 50 percent less than the regular price. Although people are aware that these goods are counterfeit but the surge in the prices of the original products push them to experience these products and make the process of buying these things as an adventure.

With regard to cleaning materials specifically, the phenomenon of selling counterfeit goods in the same price of the original products from shops and pharmacies is common. It is often that people get surprised that sealed products obtained from the pharmacy or the shops is are completely different from the original products. Going back to the sellers to report this issue is useless in this situation because the sellers would justify this by saying “distributor is responsible for these products, and how would I know that these products are fake”. Hiam, who decided to pay more than the double price of the shampoo and the toothpaste to ensure her safety, says “but it’s in vain”.

Ghina is a housewife and she says “the high price of shampoo in the market pushed me to buy from stalls because they are cheaper; however, I paid the price later when I started losing my hair after using these shampoos which I got to know later on that they contain chemicals that affect the hair and lead to hair loss”.

Assad’s government recognizes the prevalence of fraud on a large scale, and confirms through the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Protection that “fraud cases get higher with products like yogurt, tahini, oil, meat, tomato paste, detergent and ghee”. Examples were given to explain fraud mechanisms; “meat is cheated through mixing fresh meat with frozen meat and then colouring the fat in red to look as a good type of meat”. Similarly, “salt is added to the material instead of the active substance”.

It is worth mentioning that the law of ‘property protection’ guarantees to apply sanctions against perpetrators of fraud and cheaters. The Article (61) states a three month to three year imprisonment and a fine of 300 thousand to one million pounds, or one of the penalties on each citizen that has used a sign that does not belong to him or copy a brand by adding words or something else.

Although the use of these adulterated materials, food in particular, involves health risks on people, but most of the time people find themselves confined to choose between these fake materials and “nothing”. Therefore, they choose these fake goods preferring its adventurer aspect.

Translated by: Ruba Al Jarf

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