Unlicensed promotion by medical business in Dubai emphasises the risks in running promotions without the relevant approvals

A selection of free gifts, including mobile phones and televisions, were offered to consumers who attended the opening of a new branch in the emirate. Although effective in attracting potential custom – media reports suggested that, as word spread on social media, the popularity of the promotion caused crowds to form around the clinic and a traffic jam on one of Dubai’s busiest roads - its prominence ultimately led to the activity coming to the attention of the police and authorities. In addition, the unexpected popularity led to a number of disappointed consumers being unable to redeem the offer. The emirate’s health regulator, Dubai Health Authority, is understood to be taking legal action against the clinic for carrying out a promotional campaign without observing federal and local guidelines and obtaining required approvals.  

In the UAE, each emirate is individually responsible for regulating promotions and prize giveaways and permissions should be sought in each emirate that will be targeted. Although it is the Dubai Economy (formerly the Department of Economic Development) which generally has the power to regulate commercial promotions and grant licences in Dubai, this recent example emphasises that other authorities will also have a role to play if the activities of the promoter fall within their remit. It is also a good example of how on the ground activity can significantly increase the risks of an unlicensed promotion coming to the attention of the authorities, and the importance of considering the viral nature of social media, especially where supply is limited.  

Healthcare providers in the UAE also need to ensure that any promotional activity is compliant with the Ministry of Health's "Code of Ethics" for marketing and distributing medical products, which was introduced in November 2017. In particular, the code requires marketing material to be accurate, objective and sufficiently comprehensive, whilst not misleading consumers as to the efficacy or clinical support for a product or service.