Global Movement Demands Elimination of Single-use, Disposable Plastics

Calls on Corporations and Governments to Break Free from Plastic

As part of this year’s Earth Day celebrations, #breakfreefromplastic, a global movement backed up by more than 1,100 organizations, including the Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) and Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM), is urging governments worldwide to restrict or eliminate the use of single-use plastics (SUPs), stressing that the unrestrained production and consumption of disposable plastics is bringing on a plastic flood of crisis proportions.

Citing the lead of 36 countries and hundreds of cities and local government units around the world that have already imposed prohibitions or levies on the use of single-use plastics like plastic bags, straws, bottles, cups and cutlery, movement leaders pointed out that more countries and institutions are expected to follow suit as consumer attitudes change and public revulsion over plastic pollution intensifies (report titled Stemming the Plastic Flood is attached) .

“The good news is that more and more countries and cities are starting to take concrete measures to move their constituencies  away from the nightmare of plastic pollution. We expect that increasing public awareness and anger on this issue will help galvanize  other governments to do the right thing by restricting or prohibiting the use and proliferation of disposable plastics, especially when practical and ecological alternatives exist. Corporations that continue to dispense single-use plastics should start designing  waste out of their products, ” said Von Hernandez, Global Coordinator of #breakfreefromplastic.

Taxing or putting levies on the use of SUPs like plastic bags or  banning them outright have proven  effective in encouraging  consumers to shift to alternatives. Such policies are also compelling corporations and institutions to innovate and invest more in research on sustainable alternatives.

To commemorate Earth Day, #breakfreefromplastic  member organizations  around the world have initiated various activities asking corporations and governments to break free from plastic.   For our part, CAP conducted an awareness raising  programme for children in Penang Suya Meiyarivagam centre in Gelugor.  We explained to the children why we need to stop using single-use plastics such as straws, cutlery, water bottle and plastic bags.  Children were also taught how to do composting of organic kitchen waste and making of cloth bags from discarded t-shirts.

CAP and SAM urge the Malaysian government and local authorities to impose bans on non-essential single-use, disposable plastic items.    We need to embrace zero waste systems and live in harmony with nature.

Say No To Plastic! Stop Plastic Pollution!

PRESS RELEASE, 23 April 2018

TABUNG HAJI SHOULD HANDLE UMRAH MATTERS

The Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) is very disappointed with the Imams (Integrated Manasik Monitoring System) issue and how it has been handled.

The Umrah Regulatory Management Council claimed that Imams was put in place to stop the ever increasing number of Umrah scams that are happening every year.

Why was it necessary to create a system that was going to be run by a third party company and was going to cost pilgrims RM90.10 extra on top of what they would already be paying to go for Umrah?

Furthermore, now that Imams has been shelved, the Deputy Tourism and Culture Minister, Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin says that they will be creating a new mechanism to crack down on Umrah scams.

Again we ask why such a thing is necessary. The Umrah Special License given to travel agencies with Muassasah status (authorisation to manage pilgrims) is issued by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture (MOTAC). Why is the enforcement department of said ministry not going after these scammers?

An even better solution would be for Tabung Haji to issue both the license for Hajj and Umrah and leave MOTAC out of it.

Tabung Haji already has the necessary mechanism in place, all they need to do incorporate Umrah matters into that mechanism. For those who are unaware, Umrah is a minor pilgrimage.

As early as September 2016, CAP contacted Tabung Haji about the increasing rate of Umrah scams. The statistics we had at the time, from the Consumer Claims Tribunal Malaysia on Umrah scams, was that there had been 2761 victims from the years 2012 to 2015 with an estimated loss of RM19million.

In January of 2017, Tabung Haji wrote back to us to say that as per the Tabung Haji Act 1995 (Act 535), matters pertaining to Umrah do not come under their purview. In October 2017, Tabung Haji informed us that even though Hajj is a seasonal occurrence, the preparations for Hajj take place all year round; and it was apt for the Umrah Regulatory Management Council that was established 3 years ago under MOTAC to handle Umrah matter. This came after we had suggested that Tabung Haji take over Umrah matters as Umrah scams were still rampant under MOTAC.

We call for the Tabung Haji Act 1995 (Act 535) to be amended at once to include Umrah matters, just as we have called for from day one that we addressed the issue of Umrah scams. We also suggest that Tabung Haji employ more staff, that their employees learn better management skills and that they update their system if necessary. They must do anything and everything they need to make it so that Tabung Haji is the authoritative body handling Umrah matters.

We believe this is the best way to eliminate Umrah scams from happening.

Letter to the Editor, 19 December 2017

A MUCH AWAITED STEP FORWARD FOR MAVCOM

Kudos to the Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) for successfully putting together their much awaited Airport Quality of Service framework which will be implemented by the third quarter of 2018, completing in end 2019.

It is timely for the implementation of the four service quality categories comprising i) passenger comfort and facilities; ii) operator and staff facilities; iii) queuing times; and iv) passenger and baggage flow. To each of these categories there are subsections for such as washroom cleanliness, Wi-Fi, food and beverage outlets and other retail facilities availability. Others include equipment and processes affecting passengers’ flow through the facility, such as lifts, escalators, walkalators, track-transit systems, as well as wayfinding/signage.

Such improvements would certainly benefit consumers in cutting down their queuing time, getting better services and facilities, and hopefully having considered aid for those having persistent knee problem.

The Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) looks forward to see the improvements that would ease the problems faced by travellers daily with the implementation of the framework.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR, 7 December 2017

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HAVE THE CONSUMERS BEEN SHORT-CHANGED?

As early as 2007 Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) had identified problems and issues of the current motor insurance scheme which many consumers can easily relate to:

· Inadequate access to third party insurance cover, particularly for old and commercial vehicles.

· Lengthy claims settlement process.

· Premiums which have not been revised since 1978.

· Insurers were reluctant to offer third party insurance cover as premiums are insufficient.

· Risk of accident victims not receiving adequate or any compensation.

The current fault-based system is based on the principle of Corrective Justice which means that you have to pay if you are at fault. Under this system, not every person injured in a Motor Vehicle Accident (MVA) receives compensation. Moreover, the claimants have to wait a considerable length of time and spend substantial amounts of money before the final determination of their rights and award of compensation, besides having to encounter other problems.

In 2010, the Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) then proposed a No Fault Liability (NFL) Scheme to BNM. In fact, the introduction of this NFL scheme in relation to bodily injury and death as a result of MVAs was proposed by the late Tan Sri Dato’ Harun Hashim.

The advantage is that NFL would cost only a fraction of most of the motor insurance policies; Tan Sri Dato’ Harun Hashim himself proposed an average flat rate of RM50 in 1995 and CAP concurred with him on that rate.

In fact, in August 2007, the Attorney General’s Chambers issued a Preliminary Issue Paper proposing that a No Fault Liability (NFL) Scheme be introduced.

Subsequently CAP submitted a memorandum that NFL be guided by the following principles:

·         Adequate, efficient and quick compensation for victims of MVAs without the need for litigation or dispute resolution on the issue of fault;

·         Rehabilitation and life-long care for victims with serious injuries and support for dependents of deceased victims;

·         Effective accident prevention strategies; and

·         Low administrative costs so that more funds are available for road accident victims.

NFL is nothing new and CAP proposed that Malaysia can emulate the model practiced in Victoria, Australia, and run by the Transport Accident Commission (TAC). NFL has been adopted in the USA, Canada, and Australia.

In Malaysia, CAP suggested that the scheme could be funded by the existing insurance third party premiums. CAP reasoned that the legal and administrative fees of insurance companies were expected to be reduced as there is no longer a need to prove fault, and there will no longer be any commissions to agents and the existing premiums may suffice.

Moreover, funding may also be derived from the Social Security Organisation (SOCSO) as it also deals with claims by workers who are injured in the course of their employment, including travelling to and from their work place.

One common concern is accident prevention to make the scheme viable on long-term. As in the case of Victoria, there was a reduction of more than 38,000 claims over a 10-year period, resulting in a saving of more than AUD$ 1 billion. The number of fatalities plunged to 377 in 2006 from 776 in 1987.

The Australian government took pro-active steps to improve road conditions, vehicle safety and hard-hitting and emotive road safety campaigns.

In fact BNM had interest to implement NFL until 2010 when BNM announced the Basic Motor Cover Framework (BMCF) which dealt a knell for the NFL. Then in late April 2017, BNM announced it was liberalising the motor insurance industry so that individual insurers and takaful operators can determine the pricing of motor insurance products.

When the detariffication of motor insurance starts on 1 July, it is going to affect all Malaysians who owns a vehicle. According to the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (MIROS), there were 27.61 million registered vehicles in the country in 2016. The impact of detariffication has on every person who owns a vehicle license is unimaginable.

CAP is flabbergasted at how this decision can come about because the premium that a person has to pay (after detariffication) depends on a range of factors that includes the age and gender of the driver, the location of driver’s residence, and the driver’s claim history.

It is because that there had been a general consensus between CAP, BNM and the Attorney General’s Chamber that NFL was good in terms of remedies for accident victims. With the detariffication, it is not going to have significant improvement on the problems that BNM had identified in 2007.

A person acquiring motor insurance would be victimised because of the generalisation of the risk factors considered in determining the quantum of premium. Are the consumers’ problems identified by BNM in 2007 been comprehensively addressed or is BNM merely protecting the interests of the insurance industry when motor insurance is detariffed?

CAP reiterates that the NFL should immediately be adopted and implemented for the greater interests of consumers.

Letters to the Editor, 8 May 2017