The trend of taking commercial organisations of every kind to consumer courts is on the rise. This could lead to a change in the culture in our country and alter the situation in which consumers felt unable to do anything to ensure that they were fairly treated, with the options available to them severely limited. Unlike other countries where consumers wield considerable power, the hands of Pakistani consumers were tied. The knots have now been loosened.
In the latest case, a small eatery located at Badami Bagh in Lahore has been sued for Rs800,000 by a petitioner who says he fell sick, as did some of his friends, after eating at the restaurant. He has brought in a damages suit for ‘mental torture’ and the rude behaviour of the staff. The management of the eatery says that no complaints were made to it, and, therefore, there was no opportunity given to it to tackle the matter. The case of the ‘stale mutton’ we are hearing about is, of course, hardly unique. All kinds of problems have arisen through the years due to the poor hygiene and storage standards at restaurants. Almost all of us will have experienced this at one time or the other, whether eating at a high-end establishment or at a roadside cafe. In this context, the ruling of the consumer court will be watched with interest and curiosity.
With dozens of rulings — against electronic companies, shampoo manufacturers, mobile phone businesses and other concerns — from the consumer courts, it is clear that they are gaining clout. People have begun taking more matters before them, including cases of medical negligence. At least in Lahore, there is evidence that retail outlets are adopting a more ethical approach; gradually, we hope, larger commercial manufacturers will do the same, making the commercial jungle a safer place for consumers.
We need more consumer courts to take this trend further and also raise awareness among people everywhere of what they are entitled to.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 10th, 2012.
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