Growing Awareness of Consumer’s Rights in Pakistan
Tasawar Naeem (center) is dealing with the customers at his kiosk where he sells newspapers and digest after the diability. (Photo: Malik Ayub Sumbal)
Punjab province in Pakistan is considered to have the country’s most progressive consumer council, along with a number of district consumer courts.
With hundreds of succesful cases within the past few years, more and more people are now turning to the council for help with their consumer complaints.
The council even plans to establish a one-stop-service for customers to complain and to get more information on their rights.
25-year-old Tasawar Naeem is a labourer. His was a victim of malpractice… when a hospital nurse injected him with the wrong medicine.
He brought his case to the Punjab Counsumer Council two years ago.
“After a few hearings, the judge imposed a fine of 4,000 US dollars on the doctors and nurse. It’s such a relief that a country like Pakistan has this kind of department to fight for the poor.”
He’s not alone. 36-year-old house wife, Mussarat Younas, developed a skin rash from a well known brand of make-up she bought in a shop.
“It was a horrible experience, using an international brand of make-up which had expired. I went to the Consumer Council to claim for skin damage and doctor’s expenses. The shopkeeper was found guilty of keeping expired goods and had to
pay a fine of 1,000 US dollars.”
The Punjab Government passed a Consumer Rights law in 2005. Since then the Punjab Consumer Protection Council has opened up district-level offices. The body consists of government officials and experts on consumer protection.
40-year-old Adnan Karin is one of the experts, who heads the Consumer Council in Rawalpindi.
“The Consumer is the largest community in the world and the initiative to launch this organization was really marvelous by the former Chief Minister of Punjab. We are providing maximum awareness among the consumers through media, door to door advertisement and through workshops. At the time we launched this organization there was no awareness about the existence of any such department but now we have hundreds of cases, each day.”
In total, the Punjab Consumer Protection Council has taken on more than 45 thousand cases... from complaints against courier companies to milk manufactures. Mostly involving expired or unhygienic products.
Adnan Karim explains how the process works....
“It’s a very easy way to submit a complaint by writing the issue on a simple paper along with the signature. We immediately issue the legal notice to the company or the person for providing the faulty services or goods. Within 15 days the company or the person is bound to justify it and to satisfy the consumer otherwise we move the case to the District Consumer Court, where a district and judge hear the case.”
Social activist Ijaz Ahmed says, the Consumer Council has moved the society forward...
“The Consumer Councils are basically a practice to empower and strengthen the consumers for an awareness towards their rights, especially the people from Middle and Lower Middle class in Pakistan.”
To raise people’s awareness of consumer’s rights, the Consumer Council organises regular campaigns. Sajid Mahmod, is one of the campaigners.
“Consumer must know about their legal rights. When they pay for the goods and services, they deserve for the quality. If they don’t get their rights, they’re being sabotaged.”
With the money he received as compensation from the hospital, Taswar has opened up his own newspaper kiosk.
“The court verdict enables me to have this good job,” he says.
“Otherwise with my disability, it would’ve been hard for me to feed my family.”