Consumer rights is the term we all have been hearing but most of us have either never bothered or given a chance to learn about consumer rights and concerned governing laws despite the fact that we all are consumers. I do hope that this piece of writing will help you get to know your rights as a consumer.
Consumer protection laws are designed by the government aiming to prevent fraudulent and unfair trade practices. In Pakistan, the Capital and all the four provinces have their respective consumer protection laws. Under the Punjab Consumer Act, 2005, and Punjab Consumer Protection Rules, 2009, District Consumer Protection Councils and Consumer Courts have been established in several districts of the Punjab province for protection and promotion of consumer rights and to deliver speedy justice to consumers. This is certainly a very good step by the government but implementation of such laws can only be effective if the consumers are well aware of their rights, make an effort to do research and bring illegal activities into the limelight when they happen. It is important to be a knowledgeable buyer to exercise your rights.
According to the UN guidelines on consumer protection (1985) and governing laws of our country, a consumer has eight basic rights which are as follows:
RIGHT TO BASIC NEEDS:
This is the right to satisfaction of basic needs that includes access to basic essential goods and services; adequate food, clothing, shelter, health care, education and sanitation. With this right, consumers can look forward to the availability of basic and prime commodities at affordable prices and good quality.
RIGHT TO SAFETY:
It is the right of the consumer to be protected against products, production processes and services that are hazardous to health or life. In other words, it is the right to expect that products when used according to manufacturer’s instructions will not cause personal harm or injury in any way. However, it is the duty of the consumer to use the product safely following all safety instructions and remaining alert for future warnings.
RIGHT TO BE INFORMED:
The consumer must be given the accurate and truthful details to make an informed choice, and be protected against dishonest or misleading advertising and labeling. There are various means by which consumers are given information when buying products and services for e.g. description on labels/manuals on goods and contract of various service providers.
RIGHT TO CHOOSE:
This confers a right to a wide range of goods and services at competitive prices with an assurance of satisfactory quality so that the consumer can choose carefully. The right to choose is fundamental to the creation of a competitive market. Firms delivering good-value products and services get more business and rewards than the firms delivering poor quality products and services. Consumers should also not be forced to tolerate excessive and hidden charges, poor goods and services because of lack of choice.
RIGHT TO REPRESETATION / BE HEARD:
Consumers have a right to voice complaints and concerns about a product and service. They have a right to speak up, to be heard and to get issue promptly resolved. It is the duty of the state to represent consumer interests in the making and execution of government policy and in the development of products and services. .
RIGHT TO REDRESS:
The consumer has a right to receive a fair settlement of just claims, and compensation for misrepresentation, shoddy goods or unsatisfactory services. This right enables them to seek compensation for a defective product or an unsatisfactory service.
RIGHT TO CONSUMER EDUCATION:
The consumer has a right to acquire knowledge and have full access to skills and programs that help them make better and confident choices about goods and services. On the other hand consumers should aware of changing nature of products and services as consumer education is a lifelong responsibility.
RIGHT TO HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT:
It is the right to live and work in an environment that is non-threatening to the well-being of present and future generations. Air pollution, poor water quality and insufficient sanitation and hazardous chemicals adversely affect human health. The consumers should also make choices that minimize the environmental impact of purchase on others.
These are legal rights of consumers which have been recognized and guaranteed. However, non-governmental organizations and resourceful class must come forward to produce better results. The key role of citizens is participation. We all have an obligation to become informed about our rights, to monitor the conduct of our representatives, and to express opinions. Participation includes debating issues, becoming involved in private, voluntary organizations, and even protesting. However, participation must be peaceful and respectful of the law.