CONSUMER PROTECTION LEGISTATION IN PAKISTAN
“Governments should develop or maintain a strong consumer protection policy, taking into account the guidelines and relevant international agreements. In so doing, each Government should set its own priorities for the protection of consumers in accordance with the economic, social and environmental circumstances of the country and the needs of its population, bearing in mind the costs and its benefits proposed measures.” (Excerpts from the United Nations Guidelines for consumer protection) Introduction
1.Law and Justice System reforms have been high on the agenda of international political as well as development, donor and leading agencies for the past two decades or so.2 As a consequence there has been a great deal of debate revolving round the legal reform process, and several new laws previously unheard of in most of the developing countries have been introduced. In addition to international pressures, reforms have also been high on the agenda of civil society organizations. A survey of the history of consumer protection law reveals that it has gained currency more due to the efforts of the civil society organizations working for consumer rights and the spread of market economy along with the growth of globalisation.3 The introduction of United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection has been ascribed to the efforts of international (mostly western) voluntary consumer protection associations andorganizations.4 The very fact that the UN has laid down guidelines for its member countries shows the importance attached to consumer protection internationally. (a) Brief Background
Certain elements of consumer protection, as understood in our time, can be found in the older statutes in the English Common Law as well as in other denominations, for example laws concerning the contracts, sale of goods, weights and measurements, pure food etc.5 Many writers trace the history of certain concepts of consumer protections in the older traditions and civilisations.6 Modern consumer protection may only be a continuation of the thousands of years old considerations and traditions but in different form with a different emphasis. It is more concerned with comprehensive, formal and legal protections especially the ones for consumer dispute redressal mechanisms and standards of care and liability by manufacturers and service providers. The consumer protection law in its various present-day forms across various jurisdictions is relatively new and still struggling to make a niche in the realm.7 For example, in India, a quasi-federal state like Pakistan, the consumer protection Act was enacted in 1986 (hereinafter referred to as “COPRA”) at the federal level 8 but it look several years before the statute became really functional in the mid-1990s with the establishment of consumer disputes redressal fora. (ii) Consumer Protection in Pakistan.
Unlike India, there is no one statute to protect the consumer in Pakistan, as none has been introduced under the federal statutory umbrella. The reason for this is said to be the lack of constitutional jurisdiction for the enactment of consumer protections law at the federal level.9 Therefore, it is said, and this area falls in the Provincial jurisdiction. However, this argument has been debated and disputed by certain consumer rights organizations. Without going into the merits of the arguments for and against the Federal Government’s jurisdiction to legislate regarding the consumer protection, it may well be argued that in a federal structure different states and provinces may have different statutes to deal with the same area of legislation and yet conform to certain national and international...