Monday, February 10, 2014

'Government Should Not Be Left Alone To Shoulder Rising Cost Of Living', Bernama, 7 February 2014

KUALA LUMPUR, (Bernama) -- The increase in prices of goods and rising cost of living that has dominated socio-economic issue is making certain quarters blaming the government for allegedly not doing the necessary to protect consumers in the country.

However, the fact is, many people are unaware or deliberately "close their eyes", that as consumers, they are being given priority by the government.

In fact, Malaysia is among the first developing countries to formulate a law to protect consumers with the gazette of the Price Control Act 1946.

The Act empowers the government to fix and regulate the prices on specific items, and then reinforces with the Control of Supplies Act 1961 (Amendment 1973) which serves to control the supply of items declared as controlled items to ensure adequate supplies.

The Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association (FOMCA) Adviser Datuk Prof Hamdan Adnan said Malaysia was clearly not lacking in law or policies aimed at protecting consumers' rights and interests.

He said the rights of consumers from being cheated, oppressed and exploited were protected under the laws.

"In terms of the number of laws, Malaysia is on par with the developed countries, except in terms of enforcement where it needed to be enhanced to ensure the interests of consumers are assured," he added.

Among the laws which protect consumers introduced in the country are the Weights and Measures Act 1972, Trade Descriptions Act 1972, Hire Purchase Act 1967, Food Act 1983, Consumer Protection Act 1999, Direct Sales and Anti- Pyramid Scheme Act 1993.

Others include the Labelling Act 1980, Price Control and Anti-Profiteering Act 2011, Competition Commission Act 2010 and the Competition Act 2010 .

To meet with current needs and requirements, these laws are improved, like the Consumer Protection Act which has been amended four times, with the last in 2010 aimed at providing more comprehensive protection users.

Under the amendments, the Consumer Claims Tribunal was established as a mechanism to protect consumer's rights.

In addition, the Price Control Act (Labelling Order) Act 1980, which among others require manufacturers and producers to provide basic information on packaging, halal status and price tag, thus allowing users to ensure the specifications are safe and environmentally friendly.

The Price Control and Anti-Profiteering Act ensure traders do not raise prices indiscriminately, especially when the Goods and Services Tax (GST) is implemented in April 2015.

Consumers are also covered under policies, like the National Consumer Policy (NDP), which was introduced in 2002 to establish a balance between the rights and responsibilities of consumers and traders, including suppliers and manufacturers.

The government has also established a number of institutions, including the National Consumer Protection Advisory Council( MPPPK ) and the Tribunal for Consumer Claims Malaysia (TCCM), which is responsible for hearing and determining consumers' claims.

With the existing acts and policies, Hamdan said it was unfair to put the blame on the government, adding that all parties should collaborate with the government to address the increase in prices of goods in the country.

"Now, we only see the government, from the prime minister to his deputy prime minister and ministers going to the ground to monitor prices of goods, but the people, as consumers, and the consumers associations, are not doing the same," he added.

Social activist Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye emphasised the importance of the consumers' role as the government's "ears and eyes".

"If the people come across items with no price tags and traders selling items at unreasonable prices, they must report immediately. We cannot expect to have enforcement officers everywhere.

"Tougher penalties should be imposed on errant traders, if they repeatedly ignored warnings. This is to send a message to other traders to respect and comply with trade regulations and laws," he said.

However, political analyst and Social Science lecturer at Universiti Sains Malaysia, Associate Professor Dr Sivamurugan Pandian said efforts should be made to clarify the importance of the laws to the public.

"This will make the public understand that efforts to address the rising cost of living is not the responsibility of the government alone.

"The laws are there, but consumers must know their rights so that they will not be easily cheated by unscrupulous traders," he added.


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