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Can We Trust Cosmetic and Medical Products Through an E-commerce Website?

Fatima felt a severe tightness, her heart was about to burst out of her chest. Days passed and she did not find a reason for those symptoms. She went to the hospital. She was the victim of people on social media who promote medical and beauty products . She stayed in the hospital for a week due to the deterioration of her physical and mental condition, and she received a endoscopy.

This is what Fatima Mohammed Al-Dhaani, a university student, went through while browsing social media when she was attracted to the phrase that has captivated many people's hearts, "Lose ten kilos in a month." It was a post by one of the accounts about cactus pills, which are the most popular weight loss products on social media.

The exploitation of sites and personal accounts of their followers and their interest in health and beauty by promoting unlicensed drugs and beauty products that affect consumers negatively are followed by material and moral losses as long as they do not look at the consequences.

Another example of this is what Maryam Ali Al-Kaabi, a homemaker, went through. She has said "I did not expect that these advertisements promoting cactus pills or other products were just an illusion. Maybe others benefited from it or they really don't care if people later get hurt". Al-Kaabi experienced an increased heart rate and shortness of breath.

The economic advisor of the Department of Economic Development, K.K said that as a department, they are not authorised to stop or seize what is sold by an individual, as they do not have technicians or experts to determine whether the advertised products are harmful, unlicensed, or counterfeit. This is the responsibility of the platform, through which complaints are submitted. "We only grant licences and commercial licences."

He confirms that the expansion and diversification of e-commerce activities have led to many problems, though we cannot deny that it also has positives that buying online has its advantages, it saves us time and effort. Competition in e-commerce has become superior to traditional commerce and has a strong connection with the growth of financial movement technologies and related commercial transactions.

Emirates Today News reported that in August 2019, of 115 online websites, 5 were closed due to commercial fraud and the sale of products harmful to health in Abu Dhabi. According to the Director of the Commercial Protection Department at the Department of Economic Development in Abu Dhabi, the department relies on its procedures by investigating the serial number of the e-commerce licence.

The Director of the Commercial Licensing Department, Mohammed Ali Al-Mer, claims that the Department of Economic Development in Abu Dhabi issued 1,008 licences for trade, including 747 licences for trade through social media sites and 261 licences for trade through electronic sites. Widad Al-Harabi, 25, said, "I suffered from sleep disorders throughout my taking of cactus pills and I felt dizzy and tired all the time. I did not realise or rather did not understand that the reasons for my suffering were from cactus pills."

Doaa Al-Shamsi, a teenager, said, "From the severity of the symptoms that hit my body, I was searching on the internet for the symptoms of cancer!" It led her to stay in the hospital for about one week, crying for no reason, and experiencing severe tightness and body fatigue. She said "I hope that the inspection campaigns on these sites will increase and they will be revealed to the public to be a lesson for those who do not consider and increase people's awareness of the losses that it inflicts, whether moral or material.

" The head of the communications department at the Department of Economic Development Abu Dhabi, Hamid Al-Hashmi, says that most of the dangerous products are handled by competent authorities such as the Ministry of Health and the Emirates Authority for Standards and Metrology, but we receive complaints from companies that carry a trademark. The dangerous products are not monitored by the department.

More than 200 accounts have been closed this year. Al-Hashmi said that the department carries out inspection campaigns in the department's jurisdiction to put a clear end to such sites that deceive consumers. The most popular social media sites where electronic commercial activities take place are Instagram and Twitter.

In the event of any commercial activity on those sites and accounts, contact is made with the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority or the company that owns the trademark. The director of public relations at Al-Waha Hospital, Majed Mohammed Al-Balushi, says that medical products licensed to be sold on websites must first request a letter from the Ministry of Health and the Advertising Department. If the product is sold from outside the state, it can also be verified through the relevant department. Unlicensed sites, if promoting a product that is unlicensed but harmless, will be investigated by the electronic police and a fine will be imposed.

If damage has occurred and a complaint has been filed against the site concerned, it will be punished and sued, and the procedures will be lengthy. Al-Balushi also says that consumers should research any product before buying it, even if some sites put fake numbers and claim that they are from the Ministry of Health. This can be done by going to the Ministry of Health, Advertising Department website and finding the number if the product is actually licensed.

Lawyer Mai Abdulrahman Al-Falaasi, a writer and former member of the Human Rights Association, says that of the complaints they receive about e-commerce, counterfeit goods, and unlicensed cosmetics, the most vulnerable people in these accounts are women, and most of what is marketed is cosmetics, mostly from Instagram.

Most of these complaints are against fictitious companies and also companies from outside the state. "Here we blame the consumer, they should be aware before shopping online, whether harmful or healthy, they have to research well and ask before submitting to courts."

Maryam Mohammed Al-Balushi, expresses the amount of money and effort she had spent buying products from a Korean cosmetics site. Al-Balushi confirmed, "As much as I buy from this site, I haven't benefited from a single product." She said, "we as consumers do not consider the consequences of the dangerous products on our health, especially beauty products." She added, "I used a product called snail turcica, which is used to reduce acne and scars on the face. Within ten days, the problems with my skin increased and the pimples increased in a disturbing way.

The truth was a harsh experience for my skin." Her sister Afra, who is 30 years old, agrees with her opinion, "I went through the same symptoms! The truth is worse than that, I had spots on my face and other severe burns, and we did not file any complaints due to the lengthy procedures."

Lawyer Ibrahim Al-Balushi says that complaints about e-commerce and fraud crimes on social media through e-commerce are increasing. The consumer is an easy target to be caught by these fake commercial activities.

The prosecuting or holding people accountable, especially if they are outside the state, is a little difficult, but not impossible. If they are inside the state, the matter is simple and they can be easily prosecuted if fraud or fraud or the presence of damaged goods and others has occurred.

On the other hand, Nouf Al-Kaabi said that the advertisements about an unnamed face scrub that is sold on Instagram attracted him, and the abundance of people's praise for it led him to buy it. “I used it for about two weeks, I developed a rash, severe burning, strange itching, and heat in my face, and the pimples increased.” In any case, the account where the scrub was sold was closed due to an advertising campaign.

Dr Hind Shamis, a dermatologist, attests to the number of questions that reach her through social media about unhealthy and harmful products that are sold by accounts on social media and also bloggers, "I do not exaggerate, in a day, I receive about 10 questions, most of it about scrubs and the triple mixture that which become famous among women nowadays."

Edited by Chloe Mansola.

Image Online Shopping by rawpixel is licensed under CC0 1.0 DEED.

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