In a public hearing conducted by the Competition Commission of Pakistan in Lahore, a large number of public complaints were placed before it and discussed. The role of Lahore Development Authority as a 'developer' rather than a 'regulator' was the moot point, with a perception that no one monitors the malpractices being committed in the Real Estate business.

Another inferable apprehension was that some black sheep housed in the Lahore Development Authority are indulging in malpractices which, ostensibly, lead to encouragement and influx of illegal Housing Schemes in Lahore as well asin its extended areas; thereby deceiving the public at large through deceptive marketing practices.

Coming to an overall situation, one can realize that the mushrooming of housing societies and such like schemes have gained the status of earning billions in a few days. This could not be possible without the active connivance of the LDA or cantonment authorities.

There is no denying the fact that the administration of such societies, while taking into their hands, the marketing tools by advertising such Schemes in the print as well as electronic media, no matter they have acquired the whole land or a small portion thereof.

The promises coupled with the incentives they manage to show or re-lay on the TV screens are false facilities, hiding additional charges etc. and as soon as the plots are sold, the developers or the investors disappear from the scene; leaving the purchasers at the mercy of LDA or Town Administrations for the civic amenities.

The LDA normally fails to play its role as a 'regulator' and the chief executive or the owners of those societies have become habitual of selling the road, green belt and parks' sites which are supposed to be transferred in favour of LDA before any approval.

This all happens with the nexus of developers, investors and property dealers because of having no check & balance system.

The plea generally taken"that the LDA always informs the public through the media not to conduct any business with such unapproved Societies" is not a plausible justification to be relied upon. The authorities should take stern action and not to allow making any publicity or to undertake any development work at the respective sites until and unless the project is got approved from the LDA after observing all the requisite formalities and also after depositing all the dues towards the authority and the government.

In the same way, there should be a complete record of plots, strictly in accordance with the original approved map/given plots, being sold or purchased or transferred with the concerned Society or with the LDA or Revenue Agency.

A strong and well based developer by using its unlimited resources get the Societies approved wherever and howsoever  they wish whereas the parties having low profile are entangled in the rules/regulations, dragging them to a protracted litigation stretching a number of months and even years, because of ulterior motives which ultimately damage the environment of healthy competition.

Another serious issue being encountered is that the management of big societies or tycoons have assumed the role of 'state within a state', as they are also charging the development fee and, more so, the transfer fee (which goes in lacs of rupees) at their own sweet will; thereby sustaining huge loss to the LDA or the Government exchequer. In certain cases, the sale/purchase files are kept 'open' just to evade the provincial or federal taxes. 

The Cooperative Department cannot be absolved of its responsibility and legal role which they are not playing effectively. No doubt, the Competitive Commission of Pakistan has the exhaustive role to control abuse of dominant position and deceptive marketing practices or to distort competition in the relevant market.

Having discussed the serious problems of the public and the loopholes as pointed out hereinabove, there is a dire need of implementing the relevant laws on the subject without any fear or favour.

Any such material giving by any Housing Society/Agency to the electronic media for publicity must be accompanied by a Certificate/NOC by the concerned Regulatory Agency so as to avoid any further complications.

The Competition Commission of Pakistan, established under the Competition Act, 2010, has not gained any momentum as yet because of lack of awareness in the masses. To quote an example, what was happened in January, 2018 when it took serious notice of sugarcane procurement crisis in the country?  Constant and vigilant efforts are required to be made to curb the tendency of 'deceptive marketing' in accordance with the provisions of the Act which alsoprovide punishments of heavy fines and an independent Appellate Tribunal.

Although the National Accountability Bureau is already taking cognizance of the big scams, yet putting in place an effective check& balance system in the LDA as well as in the Societies Department is the need of hour so that nobody could take refuge of any VIP or back door. This will, of course, enhance the revenue generation both at provincial and federal levels.