LAHORE: The Lahore High Court has dismissed an appeal of a leading car manufacturing company in Pakistan upholding a decision of a consumer court that ordered it to pay compensation to the buyer of a car that caught fire 17 days after the purchase due to a manufacturing defect.

In the start of his 18-page verdict, Justice Sohail Nasir writes, “For a man, new car ownership is like a first girlfriend who introduced us to the feelings of butterflies in the tummy and goosebumps across the skin. It is a relationship that can keep you up all night, building castles in the air. But when she is away and not found you miss her like the deserts miss the rain.”

Similarly, the judge says, it happened with Malik Ishfaq Ahmad/consumer (contesting respondent in the company’s appeal) who purchased a new Toyota Corolla XLI from the Indus Motor Company Limited etc. (appellants) through its authorised dealer on Jan 15, 2010, but lost it just after 17 days on Feb 1 when it caught fire and was completely burnt due to a defect in the fuse box.

A district consumer court of Dera Ghazi Khan allowed a complaint of the buyer on March 29, 2014, and directed the car company to pay him a compensation of Rs1.269 million, the price of the product, with a mark-up of 10 per cent. The company was also ordered to pay Rs25,000 to the appellant/consumer as counsel fee and Rs5,000 as litigation charges with a mark-up of 10 per cent.

Vehicle burnt 17 days after purchase due to manufacturing defect

In his verdict, Justice Nasir observes that across the globe efforts are being made to protect consumer rights and one can find the best legislation on this subject.

He refers to a speech made by John F Kennedy, the former US president, delivered in Congress during 1962 while focusing on consumer rights.

The judge regrets that in Pakistan the consumer is said to be a “king” but without a crown who waited long for the birth of effective legislation on consumer rights in 2005.

He observes that the province of Punjab was the fourth in series which promulgated the Punjab Consumer Protection Act of 2005 as, after remaining pending for about 11 years, the bill was passed by the assembly on Jan 13, 2005.

In the instant case, the argument of the appellant/company was that when the vehicle was brought back by the respondent, it was examined by a mechanic who observed that the fire was the result of an alteration.

However, the judge observes, that an independent expert, after analysing the car, reported that there was a manufacturing fault in some relay and fuse box and that was the ultimate cause of the fire to the product, which means that the car was a defective product within the meanings of section 5 of the Act.

Therefore, the contesting respondent rightly approached the consumer court for relief, the judge adds.

With these observations, the judge dismissed the appeal of the car company and upheld the decision of the consumer court.

Published in Dawn, March 8th, 2022

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