The Complete Guide to Ecommerce Licenses in the UAE: 2024

The Complete Guide to Ecommerce Licenses in the UAE: 2024

July 14, 2023


The Ecommerce industry in the Emirates is thriving, with more and more customers shopping online every year. However, to legally sell goods and services online in the UAE, you'll need to obtain an Ecommerce license. The process can seem complicated, but don't worry - we've got you covered.

In this article, we'll walk you through exactly what's required to apply for an Ecommerce license in 2023, step by step. By the end, you'll feel confident navigating the licensing process and ready to launch your new Ecommerce business in the UAE.

This article covers:

The UAE Ecommerce Landscape

According to the latest research from the Dubai Chamber of Commerce, the UAE Ecommerce market is anticipated to reach $9.2 billion in revenue by 2026, and the sector's share of all retail sales in the UAE is anticipated to reach 12.6 percent by that time.  In the UAE, more than one-third of consumers made at least one smartphone purchase per week, which is higher than the global average for weekly online purchases. The report found that UAE consumers preferred domestic retail websites to foreign retailers. The average share of domestic Ecommerce websites in 2021 was 73 percent, compared to only 27 percent for foreign websites. 
Clothing and footwear, personal accessories, beauty and personal care, home and gardening, and personal care are some of the major product categories with the greatest untapped potential in the Ecommerce market in 2024.

Who is the UAE Ecommerce License Meant for?

The UAE e-Commerce Licence is ideal for:
The UAE e-Commerce Licence allows entrepreneurs and small businesses to sell goods and services online to customers in the UAE and beyond. This licence is tailored for:

  • Startups and small companies looking to build an online presence. If you have a business idea you want to launch digitally, the Ecommerce Licence provides an easy way to get up and running.
  • Existing brick-and-mortar stores. If you already have a physical storefront, obtaining an Ecommerce Licence enables you to open an online shop and reach more potential customers. You can even offer exclusive web-only deals and promotions to boost sales.
  • Freelancers and solo entrepreneurs. Whether you’re a consultant, craftsperson, or provide another service, the Ecommerce Licence gives you the freedom to sell your offerings on your own website or through third-party marketplaces like Noon and
  • Companies wanting to expand into Ecommerce. For established businesses, an Ecommerce Licence opens up new opportunities for growth by allowing you to sell products and services on the web. You can even test out new product lines online before bringing them into your physical locations.

Great Niches for Ecommerce Businesses in the UAE

The sky's the limit for anyone who wants to start an Ecommerce business in the UAE, as the country is a great Ecommerce hub with a growth rate of more than 100% in this sector and a young population with high purchasing power. But here are some areas that are always in demand.

Beauty and Cosmetics
The beauty industry is booming in the UAE, so an ecommerce business selling makeup, skincare, hair care products, or tools like curling irons would likely find success. Many major international brands are popular, as well as organic, vegan and cruelty-free options. You’ll need to research what types of products would appeal most to your target customers based on factors like age, ethnicity, and income.

Fashion and Accessories
Clothing, shoes, handbags, jewellery and other accessories also sell well online in the UAE. Cater to the latest styles and trends popular in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Source high-quality, authentic goods from trusted manufacturers and suppliers. Build your business by starting with a specific product niche like modest fashion, luxury brands, or athletic wear before expanding into other areas.

An ecommerce store focused on gift items is another niche with strong potential. You could sell gift cards, personalised items, gourmet food baskets, home decor, stationery, toys or other products that would make great gifts for friends and family. Promote your store before holidays like Eid, Christmas, Diwali, and New Year’s Eve, when people are shopping for gifts. Offer gift wrapping and shipping services for extra convenience for customers.

Requirements to Obtain an E-Commerce Licence in the UAE

To get an Ecommerce license in the UAE, you'll need to meet a few key requirements.

Ecommerce Licence
The Ecommerce license allows you to conduct business in the UAE. You'll need to provide a copy of your existing Ecommerce licence or apply for a new one through the relevant free zone authority or local department of economic development.
Business Activity Approval

An approval from the Ministry of Economy allowing you to conduct Ecommerce activities. Specify that you intend to sell goods and services online.

  • Set up a .ae domain. To legally sell goods and services online in the UAE, you'll need a .ae domain name for your Ecommerce website. You can register one through an accredited registrar like Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company (EITC).
  • Build your Ecommerce website. Your website will need secure payment facilities, terms and conditions, and a refund policy. It must also clearly display your business contact information and commercial license number.

Local Sponsor Agreement
If you have a local sponsor, submit the official sponsorship agreement. Free zone companies can be 100% foreign owned, so a sponsor may not be needed.

Office Lease Agreement
Provide a copy of your office lease agreement or rental contract. Those in a free zone may only need a flexi-desk or virtual office.

Company Documentation
Include copies of your company's constitutional documents, like the Memorandum of Association. Provide details on shareholding and directorship.

Bank Account Statement
Submit a recent statement for your company's business bank account as proof of adequate funding and capital.

Passport Copies
Provide copies of the passports of all shareholders, directors, and managers, with a minimum of 51% UAE ownership for onshore companies.

Following these steps and gathering the necessary paperwork will ensure your Ecommerce licence application proceeds as smoothly as possible. Be prepared for additional requests for documents or information from relevant government departments during the application process.

E-commerce License Fees and Processing Time in the UAE

To set up your e-commerce business in the UAE, you'll need to obtain the proper licencing. Fees and processing times can vary depending on several factors.

License Cost
An Ecommerce license in the UAE typically ranges from AED 5,000 to AED 20,000 per year, depending on:

  • The business activity. Retail e-commerce licenses tend to cost more than service-based e-commerce licenses.
  • The location. Licences in free trade zones like UAQ Free Trade Zone usually have lower fees.
  • The company type. Fees are higher for public joint stock companies compared to private joint stock companies or sole establishments.

Processing Time
The time required to obtain an e-commerce licence in the UAE is usually 1 to 3 months. The exact time frame depends on:

  • How quickly you can provide all the required documents like business plans, attested certificates, etc.
  • The emirate and free zone. For example, licences in free zones like UAQ Free Trade Zone often have a faster processing time of 2-3 days.
  • Whether you work with a licencing consultant. Consultants can help expedite the application by ensuring all requirements are met accurately the first time.

The key is to start the licensing process as early as possible to account for any unforeseen delays. With the proper planning and preparation, you can have your e-commerce business up and running in the UAE in a few months. The licensing costs and times, while not insignificant, are relatively straightforward if you understand what to expect.

Responsibilities and Obligations of E-Commerce Licence Holders


As an e-commerce licence holder in the UAE, you'll have certain responsibilities to uphold. The key ones are:

  • Paying an annual license fee. The exact amount depends on your business activities and location.
  • Keeping proper records of all transactions, invoices, receipts, and payments for at least 5 years.
  • Obtaining the necessary additional permits and approvals for certain goods like food, cosmetics, or precious metals.
  • Protecting customers' personal and financial data. You must have security measures in place to avoid fraud and theft.
  • Providing quality goods and services. The authorities conduct random inspections to check on licence holders.
  • Responding to customer complaints in a timely manner. Failure to do so can lead to penalties.
  • Paying taxes like VAT. E-commerce businesses in the UAE are subject to value-added tax on the sale of most goods and services.
  • Complying with advertising standards. Promotional content should be decent, honest, and truthful.
  • Allowing the authorities access to your business premises and records when requested.

To maintain an e-commerce licence in the UAE, you must consistently meet these obligations year after year. Failing to do so can result in warnings, fines, suspension, or even the cancellation of your licence. So make sure you understand what's expected of you fully before diving into the world of online selling in the UAE.The Ecommerce Licence provides an easy, low-cost way for a wide range of individuals and businesses to start selling goods and services over the Internet in the UAE.

Why UAQ FTZ Ecommerce license is a great option

Low Costs -The UAQ Free Trade Zone (FTZ) offers some of the most affordable ecommerce licences in the UAE. License and renewal fees are very reasonable, saving you a lot of money. 

Fast Setup - The UAQ FTZ aims to get ecommerce businesses up and running as quickly as possible. The licence approval process typically only takes 2-3 working days. Once approved, you can register your business and open a corporate bank account right away. The speedy setup means you can launch your ecommerce store and start selling online fast.

Access to UAE Market - An ecommerce licence from the UAQ FTZ provides access to sell goods and services online throughout the UAE. Your business can ship orders directly to customers anywhere in the Emirates without needing additional approvals or permits. Selling to the wider Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region is also possible with some extra paperwork.

100% foreign ownership - The UAQ FTZ offers 100% foreign ownership of ecommerce businesses. This means you can fully own and control your company without needing a local partner or sponsor. 

In summary, an ecommerce licence from the UAQ Free Trade Zone provides an affordable, fast path to starting an online business in the UAE. With low costs, quick setup times, access to the full UAE market, and 100% ownership possibilities, the UAQ FTZ is an option worth considering for your ecommerce venture.

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