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

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

DOES BNM CONDONE ILLEGAL FOREX TRADING?

JJPTR, CYL, Richway Global Venture and BTC I-system all have one thing in common; they are major money game schemes that have been in the limelight recently BUT for the wrong reasons. The Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) is appalled by the news that so many “investors” (consumers) have been cheated of their hard earned money by these companies.

But we do not believe that the situation would have gotten so bad if Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) had taken pre-emptive measures to put a stop to these money game companies.

We should note that BNM is the body tasked with enforcing the Financial Services Act 2013 (Act 758) which states that:-

·         Section 8. (1) (b) – no person shall carry on any authorized business unless it is –  approved by the Bank under section 11 to carry on any of the businesses set out in Division 1 of Part 1 of Schedule 1

·         Section 8. (3) – Any person who contravenes subsection (1) commits an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years or to a fine not exceeding fifty million ringgit or to both

We find it startling that, also stated on BNM’s “Consumer Alert & Updates” webpage is that the “Financial Consumer Alert” is there to alert the members of the public of companies and websites which are neither authorised nor approved under the relevant laws and regulations administered by BNM.

Based on the provisions of Act 758 and BNM’s claim on their website, it is clear that the activities carried out by these money game operators are illegal and punishable under the law.

And yet, despite their “illegal” status BNM has allowed these companies to continue operating.

Another claim by BNM on the “Consumer Alert & Updates” webpage is that “Consumer protection under the laws administered by BNM IS NOT APPLICABLE should the members of the public choose to deal with the illegal financial service providers. Members of the public who participate in the illegal financial activities could also BE CHARGED under the law as abetting the operators of such illegal activities”.

So we must ask, why are these companies being allowed to carry out their illegal operations and why are consumers being given a choice to deal in illegal financial activities by an authoritative body like BNM?

To put this into perspective, let us focus on the money game company JJPTR. BNM claims that this company has been on their Financial Consumer Alert since February 24 of this year. The fact that the company is on BNM’s list shows they know the company is providing illegal financial activities.

But the company was allowed to continue operating and now consumers worldwide have lost out on a collective RM500mil (the founder estimates only RM400mil). To top it off, the founder has come up with a new plan where he promises investors a 35% return on their investment – a figure much higher than the previous 20% which turned out to be unsustainable. Is BNM going to allow him to continue his illegal operations?

A statement by BNM over the course of the JJPTR saga that CAP had found perplexing is that they (BNM) will only investigate the company once a report is lodged. Why do they have to wait for a report to be lodged by the public when they themselves have already declared this company is conducting illegal financial activities?

We understood that one of the functions of bodies like BNM is to protect the interest of the public. Were we wrong? Why do they watch as people get cheated and then only take action when someone complains about being cheated?

CAP asks that BNM take immediate action against money game companies like JJPTR as prescribed by Act 758 and any other relevant laws. We also demand an explanation for BNM’s inaction thus far.

Letter to the Editor, 4 May 2017

‘WINDOWS’ TO MORE PROBLEMS

When you install a more advanced programme on your computer you expect that it is going to work and serve your purposes better but it did not seem to be the case when Microsoft introduced Windows 10.

The Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) is dismayed by the fact that there have been an overwhelming number of complaints about Windows 10 from consumers worldwide.

Microsoft announced last year that it will no longer support the older versions of Windows if computers are not upgraded to Windows 10. It offered Windows 10 for free to those with their PCs running on Windows 7 or 8 while those who did not upgrade would not receive crucial updates and security patches.

By doing so, Microsoft has curbed its millions of customers’ choice to choose because if they chose to maintain the older versions, they expose their computers to security risks. They are also coerced to use an operating system (Windows 10) that is less reliable than the ones before.

There have been cases when this operating system (OS) was installed without the permission of the user. A woman Anita Elias in London was offered £500 (RM2,560) as a gesture of goodwill by Microsoft after Windows 10 was installed without her permission; her laptop recovery and antivirus software programmes were deleted, and her laptop slowed to a crawl.

Microsoft had not considered the possibility of older computers’ hardware incompatibility with Windows 10. Computer owners might also be using older productivity software or those acquired from a third party (non-Microsoft).

Third party software may not work because companies that produced them had not manage to test their product against Windows 10 because their programmes had been written before the introduction of Windows 10 or that the companies themselves had ceased supporting their softwarethat are working well with older Windows versions.

You can imagine the exasperation of Windows 10 users when they encounter problems caused by the programme or problems that result in data loss.

Among the common complaints are that the older installed programmes on the computer are either out of sync, deleted, or may not longer work with the upgraded OS.

When the system crashes, it is expensive to send the computer for repair. Some complained that peripherals such as printers, Wi-Fi cards and speakers can no longer work with the computer after the installation of the new OS.

CAP would like to ask:

* Why was Windows 10 operating system not sufficiently debugged before coercing computer users to switch to it in such haste?
* Would Microsoft compensate users of the operating system if their computer crashes?
* Why would Microsoft assume that most computers have a system recent enough to support the use of Windows 10 and abandoned those with older systems?
* Do the computer owners with older systems deserved to be side-lined by Microsoft by discontinuing to provide crucial updates and security patches, thereby exposing their computers to security risks?
Microsoft should not deprive computer users a choice to choose between an older Windows version and Windows 10.

CAP is of the opinion that it is unfair for Microsoft to allow Windows 10 to be installed without the computer owner’s consent, even more so if installing it would create problems associated with the OS.

The Malaysian Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry (MDTCC), and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) needs to immediately implement a mechanism for computer users to claim from Microsoft for the problems encountered while using Windows 10.

MDTCC and MCMC has to consider Section 32 of the Consumer Protection Act 1999 that there is an “implied guarantee” that the goods (in this case, software) are of “acceptable quality” and “free from minor defects”.

Letter to the Editor, 3 November 2016