Certification will remain optional for now, but it's advantageous to get it done.

Jojo Puthuparampil is a business news writer for Inc. Arabia.

The certification of e-commerce websites is not mandatory in Dubai, according to a Dubai Economy official.

This month, the emirate’s economic department launched a ‘digital protection’ initiative, aimed to certify e-commerce sites to protect consumers.

“The certification process is optional during phase one and no deadline is set,” Mohammed Ali Rashed Lootah, chief executive officer, commercial compliance and consumer protection (CCCP) sector, told Arabian Business.

“Getting certified will be advantageous to any e-commerce website as it will bring in enhanced consumer trust,” Lootah said.

The certification option will be open for companies in the emirate’s mainland and free zones, while certified websites will display the consumer protection logo of Dubai Economy.

The MENA region’s e-commerce sector is likely to grow from $20 billion in 2017 to $200 billion by 2020, according to a recent report by Arab Federation of e-Commerce.

E-commerce accounts for only around 0.71% of the MENA region’s total GDP at present, compared to 3% for the rest of the world and as much as 5% in some countries such as the US.

Over the next few years e-commerce will replace traditional practices in the retail and commerce field, the report said.

A week ago, Dubai’s Emaar Malls said it was buying a 51% stake in e-commerce fashion website Namshi.com for $151 million.

It is buying the stake from Global Fashion Group (GFG), a startup set up by Rocket Internet, in which the German e-commerce investor still has a 20% stake.

The deal comes two months after global e-commerce giant Amazon.com agreed to acquire MENA retailer Souq.com.

The transaction happened two months after Amazon walked away from talks to purchase the Dubai-based online retailer following disagreements over the price.

Meanwhile, E-commerce platform Noon.com, which was expected to be launched in January this year, is apparently on track to start operations before the end of 2017, its billionaire founder Mohamed Alabbar recently said.

Noon was founded last year by Alabbar, who is leading the company in a joint venture with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and prominent GCC investors.