Consumer Courts and District Consumer Protection Councils have been established in eleven districts of the province
By Shahid Mahmood Butt
Humans always depended on each other for necessities of life and day-to-day work and that dependence led to formulation of a society. Every individual adopts a profession to earn his livelihood. Either he renders some services, e.g. medical, engineering, legal, educational, architectural, transportation, etc., or adopts occupations like agriculture, trade, manufacturing businesses for the provision of products from soap to clothing, from needle to airplanes, from eatables to electronics and other household items. In this scenario, all human beings are consumer who avail different services.
In a society, every person has rights and corresponding to those rights liabilities and obligations are imposed on others. Now, as a matter of fact, if all human beings carry out their duties in a smooth and lawful manner, according to norms and laws laid down by society, this world will become a heaven. When people want to avail their rights but do not carry out their duties they cause problems for their fellow human beings.
Those societies are considered to be ideal ones where consumer rights are given preference and protection in true sense. In 1985, United Nations approved resolution No. 39/248 recognising eight basic rights of consumers which are as under;
1. Right of protection.
2. Right of representation.
3. Right of Compensation.
4. Right of information.
5. Right of healthy environment.
6. Right to choose.
7. Right to basic necessities.
8. Right of education.
Pakistan, being a member state of the UN, adopted the said resolution. Consumer protection, being a provincial subject, falls into the domain of provincial government. Hence, Punjab government has taken a welfare-oriented step for the protection and promotion of consumer rights and interests by enacting Punjab Consumer Protection Act, 2005 and enforcing it in a true letter and spirit.
As a first step, Consumer Courts and District Consumer Protection Councils have been established in eleven districts of the province to deliver justice to consumers at their doorstep. Under the said Act, authority has been vested in the District Coordination Officer of every District to enforce the Act and provide remedy to the public at large against defective products and faulty services.
In this regard, following set-up has been established under the Punjab Consumer Protection Act (PCPA), 2005: Provincial Consumer Protection Council's Secretariat, District Consumer Protection Councils, and District Consumer Courts.
It is advisable to Consumers to observe the following principles to protect their rights: Always check manufacturing and expiry dates of the products. (Section-11, PCPA, 2005).
1. At all times makes it a habit to read ingredients/component parts of the product. (Section-11, PCPA, 2005).
2. To insist on rate list/price catalogue of goods, from manufacturer/trader. (Section-18, PCPA, 2005).
3. Always insist on and get receipt of goods purchased. (Section-19, PCPA, 2005).
4. In case of hiring services, it's the right of consumer to ask for the capabilities or qualifications of the provider of the service along with the quality of the products he intends to use for provision of the service. (Section-16, PCPA, 2005).
If any service provider or manufacturer/trader does not fulfill the above-mentioned consumer rights, the DCO, on receipt of complaint, has power to fine him up to fifty thousand rupees.
If a consumer suffered with some damage caused by a product or service, he has the right to claim damages/compensation. For this purpose, the following simple steps have been devised for the convenience of public at large:
1. First of all, serve a fifteen days legal notice, on plain paper, to the provider of faulty services or defective products as the case may be. Stating therein that he will redress the damage suffered by consumer due to faulty service or defective product and consequently pays damages to the consumer within fifteen days of receipt of legal notice. Otherwise the consumer can file a claim for damages in the Consumer Court in this regard. (Section-28, PCPA, 2005).
2. The legal notice to be served through registered post or courier service and keep receipt of it along with photocopy of the legal notice with you for further proceedings if needed.
3. If the matter does not resolve through legal notice and grievance exists then consumer can file a claim for damages in the Consumer Court along with photocopies of national identity card, legal notice, receipt of registered post or courier service regarding legal notice, any receipt / document regarding product / service. (Section-25, PCPA, 2005).
4. The claim can be filed by the consumer himself or through a lawyer. In case of hiring lawyer it is advisable to attach certificate of lawyer's fee along with claim so it can also be awarded back at the time of decision of claim in favor of consumer.
5. According to the section-30 (5) of the Punjab Consumer Protection Act, 2005, "The Consumer Court shall decide the claim within six months after the service of summons on the respondent".
6. According to section 23 (2) of the PCPA, 2005, the Authority (DCO) may file a claim before the Consumer Court for declaring a product defective or a service as faulty without proof of any damage actually suffered by a consumer but likely to be suffered.
Any consumer can contact any of the District Consumer Protection Council or Provincial Consumer protection Council for guidance and assistance in consumer-related matters.