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DOHA: The two Saudi cities of Al Ahsa and Dammam might soon lose their attraction for Qatari shoppers as there are signs that traders in these places are raising prices due to fast-accelerating demand.
Hordes of Qatari citizens rush to the two Saudi cities almost daily to mainly buy provisions like foodstuff, furniture and furnishings as well as car spare parts since these items are cheaper there as compared to the Qatari market.
A senior official from a key Saudi Arabian consumer rights watchdog says that so many Qatari nationals have been rushing to the two cities for shopping of basic household items and auto accessories that some greedy traders are raising their rates.
He said the three main items that Qatari shoppers prefer to buy in quite large quantities are foodstuff, furniture and automobile accessories.
The prices of these items have until recently been quite low —nearly 40 percent less than those in Qatar — but there are indications of late that the rates are on an upswing. According to community sources, the practice here is that a Qatari would collect money from several families related to him and drive his pick up to either Al Ahsa or Dammam once in a fortnight or so and bring back foodstuff in large quantities and distribute them.
With their purchasing power on the increase most Qatari families change their furniture and furnishings every six months or so and they rush to buy these items from either of the above two Saudi cities due to the huge price difference.
And as for car accessories, Qataris prefer to buy all minor or major parts such as battery, tyres and even engine, from these Saudi cities due to the enormous price differences.
The difference is so much that a spare part which is available for QR1,200 in Saudi Arabia, for example, is on sale in the Qatari market for as much as QR4,000.
Both Al Ahsa and Damman are large cities with their population exceeding a million people each and they have large numbers of malls and hypermarkets as well.
“Qatari shoppers have substantially raised the sale of consumer goods in the Eastern Province,” said Dr Nasser Al Tuaim.
Al Tuaim, who heads the executive committee of Saudi Arabia’s Consumer Protection Association, told Al Sharq in an interview published yesterday that due to the increased demand for consumer goods some greedy traders in Al Ahsa and Damman were raising their rates.
The official said the demand in these cities is basically driven by the heavy influx of Qatari shoppers on almost daily basis.
“Some greedy traders are taking undue advantage of this influx and increasing their prices.”
As a result, the Association has mounted its vigil on the market and is closely monitoring the pricing to help protect the rights of the hapless consumer, he said.
The time had come for the GCC states to implement a unified consumer protection law and have a common consumer rights watchdog as well, according to Al Tuaim.