Consumer Protection Laws in Pakistan
- November 4, 2022
- Posted by: MK Consultus
- Category: Pakistan
The era of enactment of consumer protection laws in Pakistan started from the year 1995 and a separate enactment for every province and federal territory of Pakistan is currently in force, brief details whereof are as under:
- Islamabad Consumer Protection Act, 1995
- NWFP Consumer Protection Act, 1997 (Amended in 2005)
- Balochistan Consumer Protection Act, 2003
- Sindh Consumer Protection Ordinance, 2007
- Punjab Consumer Protection Act, 2005 (Amended in 2006)
The province of Punjab had taken lead in implementing consumer protection laws by notifying the establishment of consumer courts and councils. Currently, district Consumer Protection Councils and Consumer Courts are being established in 11 districts under Punjab Consumer Protection Act, 2005, out of which 5 are reported to have been duly established, to protect the rights of consumers in the first phase, whereas these institutions will be established in other districts of the Punjab in the second phase very soon.
Many steps are being taken to ensure that consumers are able to seek relief and compensation from manufacturers and service providers in case they are provided defective products or services including a series of seminars under Public Campaign on Consumer Protection Laws, Batch-3: Community Empowerment/Awareness, Access to Justice Program.
The need for consumer protection laws is being realized in every part of the world and in order to protect the rights of consumers, many countries including European Union, India, Sweden and Malaysia etc. have enacted laws and policies.
Awareness Amongst the Public
The much called for awareness amongst the public regarding the protection of their rights under the consumer protection laws is gradually increasing and the media is playing an important role in the same in order to ensure consumer rights protection. Decisions of the consumer courts/high courts are being constantly reported in the media creating a sense of awareness amongst the public at large.
Steps Required to be Taken
However, what needs to be done is that all the stakeholders must be taken on board with the provision of a regulatory mechanism to enforce the consumer laws and a joint strategy must be devised to ensure effective legislation and the enforcement of the relevant laws of consumer rights across country.
Steps are required to speed up the system of the protection of consumer rights, removal of restrictions of access, launching of a well-conceived awareness drive among the consumers through media, minimizing the 30-day claim time and reducing the judgment period of 6 months which is too lengthy coupled with the fact that the same is extended by the use of fair/unfair means. Out of court settlements/alternate dispute resolution (ARD); one standard law followed throughout the country; consumers’ representation should be included while drafting a consumer protection law and the consumers should have the greater access to information and resources is also required.
Effective tools for monitoring should be introduced and an institution is imperative to monitor the violations of consumer law in order to make them more user and consumer-friendly
However, in doing so, what needs to be seen is that legislation like consumer protection laws are not meant to cause inconvenience to the manufacturers, purchasers, sellers or service providers. Their rights must also be fully protected and the laws must be designed in a manner as to keep both sides on a lawful, proper and correct track of commercial morality. The consumer laws must be given their true interpretation in order to create and foster good relations amongst the consumer and the producer. Strict penal/monetary provisions be enumerated in the consumer laws in order to discourage frivolous and vexatious claims and no one should be left to exploit and defraud the others.
An Overview of the Punjab Consumer Protection Act, 2005
Under the said legislation, two jurisdictions have been created to tackle with the consumer claims. One deals with the executive side whereas the other is purely judicial. The District Co-ordination Officer or the head of the district has been empowered to deal with the consumer complaints and has been vested with the powers of impose fine as well further, the DCO has got the power to refer matter to the consumer court for adjudication.
On the other hand, a judge equivalent to the rank of District & Session Judge has been appointed as District Consumer Judge and is vested with powers of hearing and adjudicating upon the claims/complaints.
A consumer can file a complaint against any defective good or product manufactured and deficient/defective services provided to him, after fulfilling the criteria/procedure envisaged in the law.
The procedure provided by the said act is summary in nature and any matter/complaint filed under the act is to be decided within a period of six months.
As the consumer laws in Pakistan are relatively new, therefore, Pakistani case law on the subject is not much for the time being, however, the same is expected to develop rapidly as more and more people are becoming aware of the said legislation and the number of complaints being filed are gradually increasing. However, judicial interpretation of the consumer laws in other countries is quite developed and is available including Indian precedents on the interpretation of consumer laws in India, which is almost identical to the laws promulgated in Pakistan.