11 February 2014
Consumer Protection in Punjab
Scenario: You are driving your car to work when the tyre bursts without reason, causing damage to the car. The Car Company tells you that such damage was caused by a rock under the tyre and is not covered by the warranty. What do you do?
The phrases caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) and “the customer is always right” are well known to legal professionals around the world. The precedents in United Kingdom have set the trend of being favourable to the buyer and finding that, subject to reasonableness, the buyer should get his money’s worth.
The law governing claims for damages against manufacturers by product-users in Punjab, Pakistan is the Punjab Consumer Protection Act, 2005 (the “Act”).
The Act Simplified
The Act provides that a claim for damages is only sustainable where there is: (a) an evident defect in the manufacturing of the product and (b) it is a defect in the manufacturing by the manufacturer.
Under the Act, a manufacturer is liable only when the product is defective enough so as to render it useless to the consumer in which case the customer endures a loss.
Breakdown of the Act
(1) Under Part II of the Act, a consumer is afforded protection from damage caused by a product of the manufacturer.
(2) Part III, of the Act, governs the matters where the provider of services may be liable to a consumer for damages that are caused by the provision of services that have caused damage.
(3) “Consumer”, “manufacturer”, “services”, “product” and “damage” are defined under Section 2(c), (h), (k), (j) and (d) respectively.
Consumer means a person/entity who (a) buys or obtains on lease any product for a consideration and includes any user of such product but does not include a person who obtains any product for resale or for any commercial purpose; or (b) hires any services for a consideration and includes any beneficiary of such services.
Manufacturer means a person/entity who (a) is in the business of manufacturing a product for purposes of trade; (b) labels a product; (c) exercises control over the design, construction or quality of the product; (d) assembles a product; and (e) is a seller of a product of a foreign manufacturer and administers warranty obligations.
(4) In order to hold the manufacturer of a product liable, to the consumer for damages, criteria set out it Section 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 has to be met:
4. Liability for defective products– (1) The manufacturer of a product shall be liable to a consumer for damages proximately caused by a characteristic of the product that renders the product defective when such damage arose from a reasonably anticipated use of the product by a consumer.
(2) A product shall be defective only if–
(a) it is defective in construction or composition as provided in section 5;
(b) it is defective in design as provided in section 6;
(c) it is defective because an adequate warning has not been given as provided in section 7; and
(d) it is defective because it does not conform to an express warranty of the manufacturer as provided in section 8.
(5) Section 13 of the Act provides as follows:
Liability for faulty or defective services- A provider of services shall be liable to a consumer for damages proximately caused by the provision of services that have caused damage.
If the requisites are met, a claim is filed in the Consumer Court. Evidence is then placed in order to establish if the features required under the Act were met. There is, however, scant case law in relation to the matter.
Myra Khan Qureshi is a Barrister-at-Law from the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn and Vice Chairperson Women Rights Committee of the Lahore High Court Bar Association. She is currently practicing law in Lahore, Pakistan.
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