Imagine going into a store and buying a television, a piece of clothing for Eid or even a phone. Imagine coming home and regretting your decision knowing that it was not the right choice or the right thing to buy. Imagine wanting to return it, but the shopkeeper refuses because it has been “opened”. Imagine being stuck with something that you didn’t really want now.
Imagine buying something and finding out that you could have gotten it for considerably cheaper from the store on the other side of the plaza. Imagine feeling dumb or stupid at wasting the money you could have saved?
Imagine buying something and it breaking down in less than a day! Imagine fighting with the shopkeeper or store manager who said that it was supposed to be working and it was when you checked it. Imagine being redirected to a service centre (if there is one) on the other side of town from where you will get it back repaired in a few weeks.
Imagine checking ten different shops for something you want to buy. Imagine calling friends to ask prices from different people. Imagine trying to ensure that what you buy is original and not a fake or stolen good. Imagine wasting hours and hours making sure that you don’t get into trouble later on.
The fact is that you don’t need to imagine because all of us go through this phase time and again. Whenever we want to buy something or end up buying something which doesn’t work or breaks down. It is a gross violation of our rights as consumers, and an added stress we must endure whenever we buy something.
Consumer rights are designed to protect us, the consumers, from unfair trading practices and from all the problems that we endure when we choose to buy something. In the developed world consumer rights are taken very seriously because they are seen as the basis of ensuring consumer confidence and purchasing goods and driving the economy. I would buy more often and more confidently knowing that I am not playing a game of chance. There are certain salient features of consumer protection laws:
The Right to Return a Purchased Item
A consumer can not completely know whether something fulfils his or her needs completely until he or she has experienced it first hand. Therefore, consumers have a right to return what they buy within a specified period without giving any reason. Some companies which have to repackage items for resale generally apply a small repackaging fee on the return. For electronics this is usually 2 weeks. For clothing it is sometimes less but the condition is the clothing should be unworn—trying them on is fine. Some items can’t be returned for hygiene reasons, but generally all other items and goods are returnable.
The Right to a Fair Price Guarantee
A consumer has the right to a fair price guarantee where he or she can not be overcharged for an item or good at different stores. All stores generally have to sell the same item for the same price, unless a special discount offer or sale is in effect, when which it should be advertised and made clear to the consumer that a special discount is being offered.
The Right to Buy Non-Defected Goods
A consumer has the right to buy goods free from any defects. If this is the case, then these goods should be immediately returnable for a refund. Warranties are only for items that develop problems under normal operation; therefore, asking consumers to claim warranties for defected goods is wrong.
The Right to Buy Goods as Fairly Advertised
Advertisements can not be misleading. Therefore, a product should function exactly as advertised to do something which it does not. Similarly, small disclaimers in excess are also discouraged. It is wrong for a company to show a big advertisement, and next to it in small hardly legible print give the details of the extra charges.
The Right to Appeal to a Legal Body
If a dispute arises that the consumer has a right to appeal to a legal body which should resolve the dispute and ensure that justice prevails. These are offices of fair trading or competition and consumer commissions in many countries.
Consumers legally have automatic protections when they buy goods from traders or services. The Consumer Rights Commission of Pakistan has been ineffective in ensuring consumer laws are enforced in the country. The website is out of date, and the last entry of collection of consumer laws is from the year 2000. There is a need to update these laws because technology and consumer behaviour has changed hugely over the past 13 years. Smartphone and technology services in particular have changed over the past five years, and the laws currently in place are also in effective to cover them.
Consumer laws must be updated to reflect recent changes in consumer trends. In addition consumers need to be educated about their right, and traders and sellers must adhere to consumer protection laws and strict enforcement in this regard is the need of the hour. Doing so will directly improve the lives of consumers across the country.
The writer is Youth Ambassador of Geo and Jang Group. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org Facebook: facebook.com/ali.moeen.nawazish Twitter: @am_nawazish