A collective government effort to impose stricter measures in dealing with suspected money laundering activities is on its headway as the Ministry of Commerce, with a nod from the Minister of Commerce and Industry, Minister of Social Affairs and Community Development, Fahd Al-Shariaan, issued a decision to lock away these negative practices in the real estate market by means of electronically adopting the real estate broker book effective 1 January 2023. The decision was aimed at preserving the rights of real estate agents and brokerage employees, as well as, property buyers and sellers. It also required the real estate broker to pass a training course in order to benefit from the electronic real estate broker’s book. Meanwhile, the new procedures permit the paper book until 30 June 2023.

Al-Shariaan called for the implementation of the new regulations based on specified timetables, keeping in mind the general provisions in Resolution 164 of 2020, chapter 1, which detailed that the real estate brokerage is valid if requirements for obtaining a license are met. These requirements include being a Kuwaiti national or a citizen of one of the GCC states, and the applicant should be at least 21 years old or above. The applicant should also hold no criminal records and not be registered in the resident’s property. For license approval, any legal person should be under the provisions of the commercial license under real estate brokerage based in Kuwait and has not previously declared bankruptcy.

The decision requires the broker to be entitled the “summa” fee, as well as, demands that the broker’s mediation sees the completion of the contract between the two parties, that the brokerage contract be in writing, and that the mediation process is recorded in the broker’s book, with evidence of its data, documents and other conditions and obligations that regulate the process.

Vice-President of the Real Estate Brokers Association, Imad Haidar, commented on the decision stating that the online broker contract could boost real estate sales, and at the same time reduce the number of infiltrators in the profession. He also told the Arabic paper that it safeguards the rights of both buyers and sellers, emphasizing the need to develop an integrated system to eliminate discrepancies and exploitation, particularly money laundering operations as billions of dinars are traded through the real estate sector.

Haider views this approach as a way to orchestrate the sector and address its challenges. He also mentioned that for the purpose of transparency, five relevant government agencies, namely the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, the Public Authority for Civil Information, Kuwait Municipality, the Public Fire Department and the Ministry of Justice, shall be linked to real estate brokers’ offices. He stressed that this shall enable the buyer to verify the legitimacy of the seller’s ownership of the property, and that it is free of any irregularities or financial reservations before signing the purchase contract. He believes this shall harvest numerous advantages including the guarantee that dealers shall put confidence on the market. He added that the electronic broker contract could solve the problem of paper books being rented, while the real estate sector keeps pace with the latest market advancements.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Commerce and Industry Fahd Al-Shariaan reformed and headed the National Consumer Protection Committee, assigning the Assistant Undersecretary for Consumer Protection and Control Affairs as his deputy, along with representatives from the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Information, the Public Authority for Agriculture Affairs and Fish Resources, and the Fatwa and Legislation Department. The formation also included representatives from the Environment Public Authority, the Industry Authority, the Kuwait Municipality, the General Administration of Customs, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Federation of Cooperative Societies and National Consumer Protection Associations.

The committee is responsible for laying down the consumer protection general policy, planning work protection programs, promoting and developing rights and the means to achieve these rights, receiving complaints from consumers and consumer protection associations, examining and investigating these complaints, informing competent authorities, and filing lawsuits in terms of consumers interest and interfering in them. It is also concerned with studying the proposals and recommendations regarding the consumer, cooperating with bodies interested in consumer protection at both the regional and international levels, and forming the necessary task force, in particular the ones that monitor the conformity of goods, services, specifications and quality standards, in addition to committees investigating complaints, and studying typical contracts in various areas of consumption of goods and services to avoid unfair conditions for the consumer.

The decision issued by the committee, in accordance with Law No. 39 of 2014, which pertains to regulating consumer protection and implementing the law are final. Any appeals against the decision should be directed and immediately resolved before the competent administrative judiciary.

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