After decades of enjoying very little rights, the consumers of the country have now found a means to strike back through the consumer courts. In Lahore, the court has issued arrest warrants for the manager of a bakery after he had failed to respond to several court orders to appear before it. The court is hearing a complaint filed by a customer of the bakery — regarded as one of the leading ones of the city — for “causing him embarrassment” in front of his guests after it failed to provide a 12-pound cake, exactly according to the design he had ordered. Hassan Jamil, who had bought the cake to mark his son’s first birthday, claims that the cake in question did not match the sample pictures he had shown the manager of the bakery, while also claiming that it weighed less than 12 pounds. For this, Jamil is seeking nearly Rs600,000 in damages — Rs500,000 of it for the mental agony he had suffered — and the rest for the legal and transport costs, and the loss in earnings that he has borne as a result of pursuing the case, as well as for the price of the cake.
The bakery has not commented on the design issue, which stands at the heart of the matter, but has said that Jamil would have been compensated had he brought the cake back to the bakery and had it been proved that it was under the specified weight.
The outcome of this case will be interesting to see. In the past, consumer courts have ordered retailers or manufacturers to pay up considerable sums of money to those who have complained about being sold defective products. The positive aspect of this development is that the previously hapless consumer now has a forum to which to file a complaint to. In time, this should help establish a tradition in which more care is taken about what is provided to consumers and create more awareness about their rights.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 12th, 2012.