GUJJAR KHAN: As consumers of goods and services, our most important right is the right to know our rights. Ignorance of these rights precludes the enjoyment, exercise, and strategic use of our rights for our welfare. Ignorance of our rights allows manufacturers, institutions, companies and our elected governments to misuse, abuse, violate and ignore our rights whenever it is convenient for them. Our ignorance is money in their pockets, unchecked power and license to provide less than the expected standard of goods and services.
The consumer, who is aware of his rights has many advantages over the consumer who does not. The educated consumer has a variety of opportunities to seek redress, repair and compensation for faulty goods and services because he happens to know his rights whereas an uneducated consumer finds himself confused, bewildered and dejected because he does not know how to resolve his consumer related problems.
The best way to educate one is to seek relevant local, provincial, national and international legislation on the protection of individual and collective rights. It is one of the most important duties of our elected government to provide accurate, pertinent and user-friendly information about our rights as consumers. We should ask ourselves whether the government does indeed provide such accurate, precise, and adequate information.
The Punjab government provides important information about consumer rights through the website titled “Directorate of Provincial Consumer Protection Council.” The website is an English language site whereas the overwhelming majority of the population of Punjab is unable to read or understand that language. I tried for three days to access provincial legislation on consumer rights but failed.
The lack of readily accessible information about consumer rights renders consumer rights legislation impotent and irrelevant. It also makes it very difficult for even those aware of their rights to seek redress, repair or compensation, because they cannot understand the language used to describe available legal solutions to their consumer complaint. Take the case of consumer courts in the province. According to official figures, the total number of cases pending in the courts is over 14,000 but for a population of over 90 million, this is a trifling figure. Since most consumers are victims of defective goods and poor services in one way or another, either there is a knowledge gap in the consumer population, or Punjab has the best consumer satisfaction rate on the planet.
Information on consumer rights should be made available to all Pakistanis in vernacular at the district, union council and tehsil levels. Every government office, especially one that deals with the general public, should display consumer rights prominently for anyone to read. The media should be used to spread awareness on this issue. This knowledge should also be imparted at the primary school level so that children are aware of their consumer rights from an early age.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 6th, 2012.
More in LettersLack of amenities