Product Liability and Safety in the Post WTO Era – A Pakistani Perspective

Dr. Khalid Akhtar & Nubla Ifthikhar

Year:    2004
Category:   WTO
Source:   ICQI 2004 – Pakistan 8th International Convention on Quality Improvement, Lahore
Publisher:   PIQC Institute of Quality

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Author’ Introduction:   


Dr. Khalid Akhtar is a permanent faculty member at the Department of Management Sciences, Bahria Institute of Management & Computer Sciences (BIMCS), Islamabad. His bachelor is in Mechanical Engineering from U.E.T. Lahore, followed by Masters and Doctorate in Industrial Engineering and Management from Cranfield Institute of Technology (UK) and Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok, Thailand respectively. His interest areas include:


a)      Optimal Resource Allocation & Utilization


b)      Selection & Procurement of High-Tech Machinery

c)      Characterization of High Volume – High Variety Manufacturing

d)      Public Health Management

e)      Industrial Ecology & Human Performance Technology

He has been involved with the design/ development/ manufacture of precision engineering parts for fifteen years and currently teaches subjects like Total Quality Management, Operations and Production Management, Project Management, Operations Research, Engineering Economy, Engineering Design and Manufacturing Technology.

He is also on the Board of Post Graduate Studies, University of Engineering & Technology, Taxila.



 New products are being produced at a rate much faster than ever before.  This pressure for rapid development, sometimes result in unproven technology to be adopted causing product related accidents.  WTO regulations undertake safeguarding both the manufacturer as well as the consumer.  In general, the reason for product injuries can be classified in three broad areas – behavior or knowledge of a product user, the environment where the product is used and if the manufacturer has designed and constructed the product adequately using safety analysis / quality control.  The changing nature of consumer’s requirements and habits make it difficult to devise safety programs for reducing injury.  Changing the product/ process design and improving quality management is easier than changing the human culture / behavior and environments.  Manufacturing innovation is found to be one major vehicle for reducing the risk of injury and it is for this reason that the law places major responsibility upon manufacturer for injuries due to defective products.  Product safety / liability laws are continuously being strengthened in order to protect the consumer.  For example, in the U.S., the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA) was passed in 1972 with the objectives of a) to protect the public against unreasonable risks of injury associated with consumer products, b) assisting consumers in evaluating the comparative safety of consumer products, c) to develop uniform safety standards for consumer products / minimizing conflicting regulations, and d) to promote research and investigation into the causes and prevention of product related deaths, illnesses and injuries.  Similarly, products liability law controls the private litigation of product accidents, which provides for compensation to the injured party.  On the other hand, we observe manufacturers making drastic improvements in their products and processes.  Unfortunately, this realization (both in the manufacturer and the consumer) is still lacking in Pakistan.  Most of the product manufacturers either do not understand the implications of their actions, or deliberately hide the actual costs of product liability.  The consumers too are not fully aware of their legal rights.  In this paper, the authors first identify and explore the product liability issues within the WTO regime, followed by a consumer survey regarding this awareness / roles & responsibilities of various actors (manufacturers, government, consumer and regulatory bodies etc.) as perceived by the consumers themselves. Several recommendations have been suggested on the basis of this survey and a phase wise program devised for improving consumer awareness / strengthening the laws and regulatory bodies.