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Stand In Need Of Effective Policy On Consumer Protection Rights

“Consumers, by definition, include all of us. They are the largest economic group in the economy, affecting almost every public and private economic decision. But they are the only important group whose views are often not heard”. (John F. Kennedy, 1962).

The right to have information about prices of products and services is a very important consumer right.  This right is protected under Article 19-A of Pakistani Constitution which states:

Every citizen shall have the right to have access to information in all matters of public importance subject to regulation and reasonable restrictions imposed by law.

This right to information about prices is also an important part of UN General Assembly Guidelines. According to the guidelines governments should provide:

“Access of consumers to adequate information to enable them to make informed choices according to individual wishes and needs”.

It is an established fact that consumers are the largest stakeholders in any country and have the power to make or break a brand. In Pakistan, consumers are their biggest enemy themselves as they do not check or demand quality products and accept whatever is sold to them. Consumer organizations around the world are very active and governments, the judiciary and the print media have encouraged and supported their activities, but that is not the case in Pakistan. In Pakistan, we have two-way problem, first implementation and then the informed decision of the public. Most of our common users are not aware of their rights as consumers. If they find any problem, they don’t know where to go and get their issues resolved.

In the modern era, people are ready to buy very costly gadgets to move ahead in the challenges of the time. People often think that the gadget they have purchased is of good quality and they will not face any problem in the future. But despite being multinational brands, these gadgets may turn out as faulty any time and their hard earn money may go to waste. Documentation of purchase receipt/warranty card and knowledge of procedure to claim the warranty/lodging of complaint becomes utmost important in this case. Most customers do not know that they could lodge complaints in Consumer Protection Councils for the following services and products.

 

  • Low quality of products
  • Over charging than normal rates
  • Misleading statement of the shop keeper
  • Warranty issue
  • Misleading advertising
  • Unsatisfied services of lawyer, doctor, mason or any contractor
  • Water, phone, gas services

Due to the lack of Consumer Protection Laws and enforcement of existing food and drug laws, Pakistan has become a dumping ground for semi expired food and beverages. As there are no accountability or legal checks, the gullible citizens are being misled by glossy and misleading advertisements. Callous manufacturers and wholesalers play havoc with the health and lives of the consumers. Some manufacturers even use non-food grade plastics and old, rusted tins for packing cooking oils. Unscrupulous manufacturers refill empty bottles and tins of branded products to cheat the consumers and spurious and sub-standard products are being produced and marketed under popular brand names. Some manufacturers are placing the Pakistan Standard and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA) logo on their labels without actually registering their products with them and there are many brands of cooking oil and bottled water that have not even bothered to register their products, yet these products are being sold without fear of punishment.

According to the Sindh Ordinance, 2001, the existing pure food laws and even PSQCA laws, all the above offences are punishable by imprisonment and fine. And yet, in spite of the blatant flouting of the laws, not a single manufacturer or whole seller has been effectively challenged, prosecuted or punished, thus making our laws, worthless or meaningless.

The lack of enforcement of laws has also tarnished our image in the international community and has had a negative effect in the investment climate. According to a recent survey, the government is also losing billions of rupees per year in revenue in the form of taxes, excise duties, etc, as most of these manufacturers of spurious and counterfeit products are not registered and do not pay taxes.

The writer is a Karachi based freelance columnist and is a banker by profession. He could be reached on Twitter @ReluctantAhsan

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