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Sindh, Islamabad: government fails to implement Consumer Protection Law

There has been a failure to implement Consumer Protection Law in Sindh and federal capital, depriving consumers of their rights. There is a huge disparity in consumer protection laws across the country which is being exploited without any check by the authorities.

Administration of Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) failed to implement the Consumer Protection Act 1995, which was passed 18 years ago for the protection of consumer rights. Sindh Consumer Protection Ordinance of 2007 has lapsed and incumbent government of Sindh has not shown any intent to re-promulgate the ordinance.

Nadeem Iqbal, Executive Co-ordinator of The Network for Consumer Protection - an NGO - said that in the federal capital, there was no consumer council as per law. Until and unless the Islamabad Consumer Protection Council is formed, the Consumer Court cannot provide redress effectively to the consumers under the Islamabad Consumer Protection Act 1995.

He said there were no independent courts established in federal capital for the protection of consumer rights but additional charge had been given to local courts. He said Consumer Protection Law of Federal Capital needed to be seen as a whole and required an active Consumer Protection Council mainly consisting of bureaucrats and eminent people from the capital and the associations of consumers.

Consumers are the most vulnerable class of people in Pakistan, partly because of a lack of proper understanding of their rights and legal remedies and partly because of the disparity in consumer protection laws in the federal capital and the four provinces. Consumer protection laws aim at promoting fair competition, flow of truthful information in the marketplace, sale of standardised goods, and plenary provisions for consumer courts so as to provide prompt and fair dispensation of justice.

At present, the ICT as well as all the four provinces have their respective consumer protection laws: the Islamabad Consumer Protection Act of 1995, the NWFP Consumer Protection Act of 1997, the Balochistan Consumer Protection Act of 2003, Punjab Consumer Protection Act of 2005 and the Sindh Consumer Protection Ordinance of 2007. The Islamabad Consumer Protection Act of 1995, under Section 6, empowers the Sessions Court to entertain complaints; and the High Court exercises appellate jurisdiction under Section 10.

The NWFP law does not specifically mention the establishment of separate consumer courts but Section 14 of the Act says that the district magistrate or a magistrate may entertain complaints pertaining to consumer protection issues. Section 17 of the said Act invests the session court with the appellate jurisdiction against the orders of the authority or the magistrate as the case may be.

In Balochistan, Section 12 of the Consumer Protection Act of 2003 requires a consumer court to be presided over by a judge or judicial magistrate; while under section 18 of the Act, the appeal may lie with the session court or the high court. The Punjab Consumer Protection Act of 2005 provides for the establishment of consumer courts to be presided over by a district judge and the Lahore High Court has got the appellate jurisdiction. "Currently around 11 consumer courts are functional in Punjab and playing their roles effectively", Nadeem observed.

The Sindh Consumer Protection Ordinance of 2007, under Section 17, speaks of the establishment of consumer tribunals to be presided over by an executive district officer (revenue) or person qualified to be appointed so. The ordinance has lapsed. All five consumer protection statutes also make provisions for the establishment of consumer councils of which the members are taken from the executive and the proceedings of these councils are exempt from judicial scrutiny. The composition, powers and functions of these councils differ from province to province. Moreover, the scope of rights and liabilities of sellers and buyers also differ, said a former official of disbanded Monopoly Control Authority (MCA).

In Pakistan, he maintained, despite the promulgation of the Competition Act of 2010 and the establishment of the Competition Commission, no substantial improvement had been noticed in the standard of products available in the markets. The National Judicial Policy of 2009, he said, specifically addressed that issue and a clear direction was made to the federal/provincial governments to make necessary amendments to the relevant laws to that effect. Despite that, the domain of consumer justice is still partly under the control of executive authorities.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2013


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