Straight Talk - Counterfeit Products.
Today, Counterfeiting has become a global menace and requires immediate action. They are
manufactured and marketed with only one objective in mind, to cut costs, ignoring quality,
safety or cleanliness, cheat the consumers and make unlawful profits.
According to a recent survey, Pakistani markets are flooded with look alike and counterfeit
products, including life saving drugs, which are being sold without fear of punishment and are
produced with the patronage of government officials. This figure exceeds 60% in rural areas.
Due to the lack of enforcement of existing laws, some manufacturers use non-food grade
plastics and colors in their products, which cause cancer. While some manufacturers use old
rusted tins and plastic bottles of branded products for packing cooking oils and bottled water
and market them under popular brand names.
And these products are being openly sold at public places like weekly bazaars, the lower
courts, bus and truck stops, railway stations, schools, etc., with the full knowledge of
For the last several years, the print media has been drawing the attention of the government
and the judiciary to this fact and that consumers are being poisoned by counterfeit products
and cheated by glossy and misleading advertisements.
But unfortunately, no progress has been made on this vital issue and due to the absence of
consumer protection laws, consumer courts and lack of enforcement of existing food and
drug laws, the gullible citizens continue to be victims of counterfeit products.
Selling these products is a criminal offence, whereby culprits can be prosecuted and
punished to the extent of two years or fine or both under Section 486 of Pakistan Penal Code.
The above section also applies to the retailer, who connive with a fraudulent wholesaler or
manufacturer to deceive and defraud the public, to believe that the goods being sold to him
Even the existing Provincial Ordinances, PSQCA Standards, the Drug and Pure Food Laws,
etc., though outdated and may not be perfect, are very effective.
They all have very clear and defined punishments, including fines and imprisonment, for
manufacturing, distributing and selling counterfeit products and medicines, but unfortunately
even these are not being enforced by any of the relevant government departments.
Each successive government keeps ordering the strict enforcement of the pure food and drug
laws and taking strict action against all those who break them, but these are just cosmetic
announcements and are never enforced.
At present, hundred of cases are in the courts, filed by the Chief Food and Drug Inspectors
and are pending, waiting for judgment, for the last several years and not a single
manufacturer, distributor or retailer has been punished.
And ministers and government officials have openly admitted that the government and the
present judicial system are unable to enforce the rule of law.
In neighboring countries, the superior judiciary has come to the assistance of the consumers,
by taking suo motto action against those indulging in such malpractices.
The Consumer Protection Laws are strictly enforced and implemented and there are consumer
courts that take up complaints of consumers against sub-standard and counterfeit products.
In the absence of these laws in Pakistan, our courts must take up the existing cases that have
been filed in the courts and assist the food and health inspectors, by finalizing judgments on
the pending cases and punishing the guilty. The judiciary must come to the aid of the hapless
consumers and protect them from counterfeit products.
Multinational and local companies, as socially responsible manufacturers who believe in
marketing quality products, must also play their due role in the eradication of counterfeit
products from the market. It is their moral duty to protect their consumers, who think they are
buying and paying for a branded product.
The lack of enforcement of laws has also tarnished our image in the International community
and has had a negative effect in the investment climate.
According to a recent survey, the government is loosing billions of rupees per year in
revenue, in the form of taxes, excise duties, etc., as most of these manufacturers of spurious
and counterfeit products are unregistered and do not pay taxes.
It is also detrimental to the national economy, by means of evasion of sales tax and excise
duty. The manufacturers are also duty bound to join consumers for unveiling these culprits
before the public, by lodging a F.I.R. with the concerned police, to deter the culprits from such
The Consumer Protection Ordinance, Sindh was signed by Dr. Ishrat ul Ebad Khan, Governor
Sindh, on 12th August 2004, but due to the lack of political will, the ordinance has lapsed three
times and was never presented to the Sindh Assembly for ratification.
As such, Sindh is the only province without a Consumer Protection Law or Consumer Courts.
The government must therefore introduce the Consumer Laws and establish Consumers
Courts, as in the other provinces of Pakistan.
Unfortunately, the biggest enemy of the consumers in Pakistan are the consumers
themselves, as they do not check or demand quality and accept what ever is sold to them.
This has turned us into a “number two” nation and has affected our exports.
To sensitize this serious problem, Helpline Trust had organized a seminar on Reshaping
Pakistan’s Industry - “Eliminating the Menace of Counterfeit Products” last week at Avari
Towers Hotel, Karachi.
The objective of the seminar was to draw the attention of the government and the judiciary, to
take positive steps in protecting the interest of the consumers and take action against the
manufacturing and marketing of counterfeit and look alike products.
However, seeing the numerous problems facing the Sindh government these days, one
doubts if it will take up the issue of consumer protection in the near future.
Therefore, unless the consumers become active soldiers in protecting their rights, they will
continue to be cheated by unscrupulous manufacturers and counterfeiters.
Hamid Maker. (Email: email@example.com).