Consumers Fleeced By Inaccurate Weighing Scales

Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) urges the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Co-Operatives and Consumerism to conduct checks and take action against wet market traders using inaccurate mechanical weighing scales (with dial indicators on both sides of the machine) to short-weigh consumers.

Our recent survey at all the wet markets in Penang showed that some of the weighing scales have their calibration stickers displayed away from the consumers. In fact the calibration should be seen by consumers so that they are assured of the accuracy of the weighing scale and if it is fit for use in business.

Besides the calibration sticker issue, we also found that the weighing scales used by most traders are less than satisfactory as the indicator of the dial does not start from “0” (zero) and sometimes the dirty transparent plastic dial makes the reading of the dial difficult.

Traders should send their weighing scales for recalibration annually under the Weights and Measures Act 1972. The Ministry should seriously consider printing the year of calibration in large bold fonts on the calibration sticker for easy reading by the consumers.

They should also be reminded that the side of the weighing scale with the calibration sticker should be clearly displayed, facing the consumers.

The Ministry should also ensure that every market has two weighing scales (one of which is meant for halal items) for consumers to verify the weight of their goods if they have any doubts. Contacts should also be provided at where the weighing scales are so that consumers can call if they have any complaint such as short-weight, price hike of essential items or unhealthy business practices.

Press Statement, 9 September 2016

 

Your basic rights as a consumer

Consumers had little protection in the world marketplace before the 1950s. On March 15, 1962, US President John F. Kennedy put forth the "Consumer Bill of Rights" to help consumers understand their rights and responsibilities. In 1985, eight basic consumer rights were adopted by the United Nations' Assembly, which resulted in consumers having stronger consumer protection policies worldwide. March 15 is now declared as World Consumer Rights Day!
Your original basic consumer rights are:

  • The right to choose
  • The right to safety
  • The right to be informed
  • The right to be heard

Through Consumers International, four more rights were added as follows:

  • The right to redress or remedy
  • The right to environmental health
  • The right to service
  • The right to consumer education
What do your basic consumer rights do for you?

1. The right to choose. Within reason, consumers have the right to be assured that a selection of quality products and services are available for them to purchase at competitive prices. It means that a consumer should have the opportunity to select the goods or services that he or she wants to purchase.

2. The right to safety. Consumers have the right to expect protection from hazardous products and services purchased in the marketplace, particularly if used properly for their intended purpose. Consumers have protection from the sale and distribution of dangerous goods and services.

3. The right to be informed. Consumers have the right to receive adequate information about products on which to base buying decisions. Reliable sources exist to inform consumers about products or services.

4. The right to be heard and the right to voice. Consumers have the right to equal and fair consideration in government policy-making situations, as well as prompt treatment in administrative courts or legal communities. In other words, consumers have a right to complain when there are problems or concerns. They have the right to speak up, to be heard, and to expect positive results. Through this right, both business and government are expected to respond to consumers.

5. The right to redress or remedy. Consumers are afforded an opportunity to have a hearing to voice dissatisfaction such that a resolution is reached and the complaint is settled satisfactorily.

6. The right to environmental health. Consumers should be protected from the devastating effects of air, earth, and water pollution that may result from the performance of daily marketplace operations. Consumers have the right to live and work in an environment that does not threaten the well-being of present and future generations.

7. The right to service. Consumers may expect convenience, the right to be treated with respect, an appropriate response to their needs and problems, and good quality design and workmanship in a product. Additionally, consumers may expect a courteous manner while in a store or other establishment even if a purchase is not made. Service means access to essential goods and services to include adequate food, shelter, clothing, health care, education and sanitation¬ basic needs that should be available to all consumers.

8. The right to consumer education. Consumers are extended the right to continuing consumer education that supports the benefits and enjoyment of other specific rights. Consumers have the right to some form of training and mastery of knowledge and skills needed to make informed decisions in the marketplace.

Consumers are privileged to have rights; however, they come with certain responsibilities. For example, it is a consumer's responsibility to use products for their intended purpose and to properly store and dispose of merchandise.

Consumers should be concerned with securing, protecting, and asserting their rights in the marketplace while trading and transacting business to obtain fair value for goods and services. Meanwhile, consumers should not have to worry about the safety of the item they purchase, or contend with false and misleading advertising. Consumers have the responsibility to seek, to evaluate and to use available information on products and services to make sound buying decisions.

In the marketplace, consumers expect businesses to offer a variety of goods and services at competitive prices. However, it is up to the consumer to carefully choose products and services at affordable prices and to express any concerns to government or businesses if these products or services do not meet their expectations.

Consumers want pure air and water, safe and responsible waste disposal, the preservation of natural resources, and effective conservation measures. In other words, consumers want respect for the earth and the overall environment where the beauty of nature can be enjoyed and relished by all.

When you seek consumer education or protection through the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP), you are exercising one of your basic consumer rights. Information you get through CAP will help you function in the marketplace as you become a knowledgeable consumer.

Materialistic consumer culture is bringing us to the brink of environmental collapse and a total breakdown of human societies. Read how this culture is destroying us and how people around the world are challenging this culture in the CAP book, Beyond Consumer Culture

 

 

Your responsibility as a consumer

When the consumer is more careful about his spending habits, he saves himself a lot of money as well as time and aggravation. It could also mean not having to go back to the shop, or seeking out the Small Claims Courts or Tribunals to obtain redress.

As a responsible consumer:-

  •  Don’t swallow line, hook or sinker what sales people tell you, or what you read/hear in advertisements. Take time to THINK whether the claims are logical (for example getting 20% per month returns on your investment is not logical; winning free gifts out of the blue is not logical).
  •  When any claims sound too good be on your guard immediately. Do not take the next step (for example paying money to someone or signing any documents) without THINKING and SCRUTINIZING the document.
  •  If you are told the offer is valid only for the day, FORGET about it straightaway. It is only meant to excite you and overpower your rationality.
  •  Remember it is easier to say NO at the first instance, and change it to YES after careful thought and further investigation. But if you say YES or sign any documents without thinking twice or without reading and fully understanding all the terms and conditions in the document, you could land yourself in BIG TROUBLE. For example, the so called “Free” Astro offer that at one time came with the purchase of a Proton car was not totally free. When you signed the form, you agreed to be tied up for 3 years, and if you decided to terminate the  contract earlier you had to pay a sum of RM500.
  •  If anyone claims that he is from a government department, ask to see his authority card and take down his name, I.C. No and address. If he does not produce such a card, or does not want you to note down his particulars, show him the door. If he refuses to leave, he becomes a  trespasser. Call the police.
  •  Do not allow strangers into the house, no matter how nice they appear to be. Once in the house, they will harass you with their high-pitched sales talks and refuse to leave unless you buy something. Of course you can call the police if they won’t leave when you refuse to buy their products, but PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE.
  •  Be careful when signing contracts because in Malaysia, we do not have an “Unfair Contract Terms Act”. You could be signing away more than you realised and be bound by it.
  •  It may be glamorous and classy to be seen with a wallet-ful of credit cards. But they may lead you to bankruptcy if not used in a judicious manner.
  •  If you care about maintaining a good financial standing, don’t get into any bad debts that will get your name into the computer systems of credit reference agencies. Although you may pay up your debts later, your financial history could remain in the system for good and stare at you whenever you need to take a loan from a financial institution.

Find out how shopping malls, supermarkets, casinos and advertisers are manipulating you in the CAP Guide, Don't Be A Victim Of Mindless Buying

The Consumer Protection Act

The Malaysia's Consumer Protection Act 1999 (CPA) is an act which came into effect 1st October 1999. It is a piece of legislation enacted with the main objective to provide greater protection for consumers.
The provisions of this act cover areas not covered by other existing laws. This act provides simple, inexpensive redressal to the consumer's grievances and relief of a specific nature.

Under this act, an aggrieved consumer may refer any dispute or claim of less then RM10,000 to the established Consumer Redressal Tribunal.

What are your rights as a consumer?

Under the Consumer Protection Act 1999, your rights granted cannot be taken away from you notwithstanding conditions in any agreement that you have signed.

As a consumer, you have the right to all the products and services of daily basic needs including food, clothing, health, education and house.

You are also protected from products, services and manufacturing processes that may expose your health and life to danger. The Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs may publish in the Gazette a list of products considered unsafe to be sold and may then require the suppliers or manufacturers of the prohibited products to either recall the products, stop the sale and advertisements of the products, disclose to the public information relating to the characteristics which make the products unsafe, repair or replace the products or refund the purchasers.

To make the right choice, you have the right to obtain accurate and precise facts about the product and service that you want to consume. You can only act in a wise and responsible way if you are equipped with enough information. A supplier and manufacturer are prohibited to use misleading and deceptive conduct, false misrepresentation and unfair claims in selling the product or service to you.

Nobody can force you to buy a product or service. You have the freedom in buying or assuring that the product or service you need is obtained through the right channels, based on the right price.

You have the right to claim for damages from unfair practices from the supplier or manufacturer.

The CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT 1999 can be downloaded from the website of the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism: http://www.kpdnkk.gov.my

 

What are you entitled to in a complaint?

Before you complain, decide first what you are entitled to. Ask yourself whether you just want your money back, a replacement, a repair or even compensation?
 
Be reasonable in considering an offer. If the other party makes a reasonable offer, it might be worth accepting it even if it is not exactly what you wanted. If you think there are weak points in your case or if the sum involved is relatively small, it might take a lot of time, effort and expense to get a better offer.

For a defective product, the seller may agree to refund your money, or offer you a replacement, allowing you to buy from the same company goods of the same value as the ones you have returned. He might offer to repair the faulty goods free of charge.

Refund

If the article is satisfactory for a time and then develops a fault, it is probably too late to get your money back.

If the goods you ordered are found to be faulty on delivery, you can’t cancel your order immediately but you should notify the shop and allow them a reasonable time to deliver a replacement.

If the goods are under a manufacturer’s guarantee it will be reasonably expected of you to give the manufacturer an opportunity to put the defect right before cancelling your purchase with the shop.

Replacements

A replacement is often perfectly acceptable unless your need for the item has passed or you have lost faith in the goods, for example if the shop has twice replaced the item and each time it has proved faulty). Should this be the case, you are entitled to ask for your money back or for compensation.

Repairs

A repair (free of charge) for minor faults which may emerge some time after purchase is acceptable. But if the shop offers to repair a new television that has developed a serious fault during the first week of use you should insist on a new set, not a repaired one. If the implied terms of the Consumer Protection Act 1999 have been broken, you don’t have to accept a repair but can insist on a refund or compensation. Similarly, if you accept an offer to repair, the repairs must be carried out within a reasonable period of time. If the repairs take unreasonably long or are unsuccessful, you can insist on a refund.

Compensation

Under the Consumer Protection Act, you are entitled to be compensated for any damage caused by defective goods. For example, if your new washing machine breaks down, damaging the clothes in it in the process, you can claim compensation not only for the faulty machine but also for the damaged clothes. However, you need to show evidence (like the actual damaged clothes for example) that the product was the direct cause of the damage.

Getting redresses with CAP’s help

Consumers can obtain redresses successfully without CAP’s involvement. Even when the companies are ignoring the letters there are venues that consumers should seek before approaching CAP for help.

Before complaining to CAP

1. You are expected to have taken up the matter with the relevant party/parties and escalated to higher levels if the complaint was not resolved.
2. You should have sent your letters by A.R. Registered mail and kept the receipt and A.R. cards as evidence.
3. You should have kept copies of all letters sent and any acknowledgement and replies received. Keep them in a file so they don’t get lost/damaged.
4. For government departments,statutory bodies and former government agencies now privatised, if that department or agency does not respond, complain to the Public Complaints Bureau (address below).* And if the Bureau does not act speedily, complain to your Ketua Setiausaha Negara.

Lodging your complaint with CAP

1. If you are writing in, state the facts honestly and briefly. Provide copies of relevant documents.
2. Provide your full address (including postcode), e-mail address and telephone contact number.
3. Make sure your letters are signed. We do not act on unsigned letters.
4. If you are coming personally, bring all relevant documents along.

After your complaint has been lodged

1. You are expected to show interest in your complaint and to give CAP your fullest co-operation.
2. If we do not hear from you or from the party complained against for up to 3 months after we have written to that party, we shall proceed to close your file.

The reason is simple. After we have acted on your complaint, the other party could have contacted you and settled the matter without informing us. This happens in many cases. And sadly, the complainant also does not inform us that his complaint has been successfully settled. As a result, we waste time, energy and money keeping the file open and carrying on with correspondence.

Therefore, if we do not hear from you for up to 3 months after we have acted on your complaint, and informed you of our action, we will treat the complaint as settled or abandoned and close your file.

*Ketua Pengarah, Ibu Pejabat Biro Pengaduan Awam,
Jabatan Perdana Menteri,
Aras 6, Blok B 1, Pusat Pentadbiran Kerajaan Persekutuan,
62502 PUTRAJAYA