Products complaints – What you can do

Defective goods or purchases that do not fit their description can cause consumers a headache. Not only do they hurt the pocket, they can also be dangerous. A faulty electrical product, for example, may start a fire or even cause a fatal injury.

An unscrupulous salesman may lie to push his product. When a potential buyer steps into his shop, he is treated like royalty and assured of the product’s quality. But after he has bought the item and discovers that it is not up to standard, he has a hard time getting the item replaced or repaired or getting compensation.

There are laws against such fraudulent practices which make it a criminal offence for traders to make false statements about the goods they sell. According to the Trade Descriptions Act 1972 (amended 1993), any person who applies a false description to any goods as to their fitness for purpose or quality can be fined up to RM100,000 or jailed up to three years or both. A company found guilty of violating this law can be fined up to RM250,000 for the first offence and up to RM500,000 for the second and subsequent offences.

Basically every time you buy goods you make a contract with the seller and the law (Consumer Protection Act 1999) lays down certain implied (i.e. assumed) terms that apply in every contract of sale. In brief the goods that you buy have the following implied guarantees:

  •  Implied guarantee as to title: the buyer has the right to own the goods;
  •  Implied guarantee as to acceptable quality: goods should be fit for all the purposes for which they are normally used, acceptable in appearance and finish, free from minor defects, safe and durable. For example it is no good having a new toaster which works erratically or a new pair of shoes with one heel coming off on your way to work.
  • Implied guarantee that goods comply with description: when goods are sold by description (e.g. through mail order) the goods should correspond with the description, the goods must be as described in terms of size, finish, number of articles and so on. For example your kids much anticipated Mickey and Minnie Mouse cups should not turn out to be plain plastic cups.
  •  Implied guarantee that goods comply with sample: the quality of the goods should correspond with the sample or demonstration model. For example if you select a carpet material from samples in a shop, the seller must supply you with a carpet of materiel which matches the selected sample;
  • Implied guarantee as to fitness for particular purpose: the goods should be reasonably fit for any particular purpose for which they are ordinarily used. For example, imagine you are looking for glue to fix the sole of your shoe which has come off. At a hardware store, the shop assistant sells you a particular type of glue, which he says is good for the purpose. Back home you find the glue is useless for gumming back the sole. What should you do?

In this case, the glue you bought cannot be used for its intended purpose, as recommended by the seller, so you have every right to get a replacement or your money back. However, note that if you had selected the wrong type of glue yourself, without the help of the shop assistant, then he is not liable if the glue proves to be unsuitable for the job.

  •  Implied guarantee as to price: consumers should not pay the supplier more than a reasonable price for goods. For example the consumer is entitled to a refund if the same model of bicycle that he bought for RM400 is being sold at only RM200 in other shops. This implied condition does not apply where the price of the goods is to be decided by any contract agreed by the parties or will be decided later by the parties concerned.
  •  Implied guarantee as to repairs and spare parts: whether involving local or imported goods, spare parts and facilities for repairs should be reasonably available for a reasonable period after the goods are sold. This implied guarantee does not apply if the manufacturer or supplier has informed the buyer that spare parts and repair facilities may not be available.

Who to complain to?

The supplier, manufacturer, importer or the  Consumer Claims Tribunal/Tribunal Tuntutan Pengguna Malaysia, Kementerian Perdagangan Dalam Negeri, Koperasi dan Kepenggunaan,

Aras 5, Lot2 G3, Podium2, Presint 2,
Pusat Pendtabiran Kerajaan Persekutuan.
62623 Putrajaya
or the nearest branch.of the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism)