Sindh govt fails to establish consumer courts

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Muneeb Azam has been contacting the office of an association of builders to get his money back as the builder has not completed the project since the last 10 years, even though his family has paid 4 million rupees, along with the loan of House Building Financing Company (HBFC), which they are still paying.

Jameel Baloch ended up selling his new mobile set, which he had bought just one month ago. He had submitted the set to the customer service office of the biggest Pakistani mobile company three times, but the mobile was freezing again and again.

A person will face such consumer issues, like ones of Muneeb and Jameel, if they dwell in Sindh, since no one has a place to put his or her case against any enterprise that violates your right as consumer.

Although Sindh Assembly enacted an act regarding the matter, namely ‘Sindh Consumer Protection Act 2014’ on February 20th, 2015, according to which the government was supposed to establish consumer courts. But it has been two and half years since the act was passed and yet the government has not established the courts.

“Consumer courts can protect the consumers from fraud, eradicate corruption and help in creating a consumer-friendly environment in the province,” said Consumer Rights Protection Council (CRPC) Chairman Shakeel Baig.

The government was supposed to establish districts and session courts in respective districts to address the problems of the consumers as per the law of Sindh Consumer protection Act. All the other provinces of the country have these courts, which are functioning and dealing with the consumer problems according to law in their jurisdiction.

“Fixed price issue of food item as well as quality of such products will be challenged in the court, but first, action will be taken by Food Authority, which also awaits the establishment of West Pakistan pure food ordinance, 1960,” said Consumer Committee of Amity International Chairman Muhammad Imran Shehzad.

General consumer issues will be taken to the consumer court directly, where the court will summon the vendor. The consumer will only have to write an application to the court he will not need any advocate for this case. Under food authority, commissioner of every division in Sindh will depute deputy commissioners who will further check prices, quality of general items and if something is found defective as well as expired, he would fine the vendor and send the cases to consumer courts for trial.

“Due to the non-implementation of consumer protection bill in the province, shopkeepers were selling commodities of low or defective quality on higher prices due to which, the public at large was suffering and paying exorbitant amount of lower grade items,” Imran said.

Another man, Bilal Hussain, complained about a big store in Karachi, which may have made mistake of charging him more than what he had bought, but small shopkeepers or handcart owners do it deliberately on daily bases; even expired medicine are sold in market which are causing a lot of deaths. “Usually you will find that manufacturing date, batch number and retail price are not mention on bottles of the medicines,” said Imran Shehzad.

The execution of the act will force the sellers to remove defects from their products and to replace or return money to the claimant. The act will be applied to all commercial communities of any kind through any means including media and services. False and misleading representation made by a corporation or person in products or services will be also addressed by the courts.

Once the consumer courts are established in all the districts of Sindh, they will punish shopkeepers involved in violating the prices, quality and quantity fixed by Sindh government, resultantly there will be a relatively friendly environment for consumer. “I have seen many cases in Punjab, where companies are either panelised or are forced to make settlements by compensating the consumer,” said Shakeel Baig.