Archive for the ‘Consumerism’ Category

Malaysian consumers under 30 more likely to be conned online

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017
Legal Consumer Complaints Center (NCCC), Mandeep Singh (left) and National Consumer Complaints Center (NCCC) Senior Legal and Policy Manager, Shabana Naseer Ahmad at a press conference on the Consumer Complaints Annual Report 2016 at ERA Consumer. (pix by SHAWAL AZANI

PETALING JAYA: Consumers in their 30s and below are most susceptible to online fraud particularly for their affinity to trendy gadgets, according to the National Consumer Complaints Centre (NCCC).

Its Legal and Policy Division senior manager Shabana Naseer Ahmad said such consumers readily fell prey to “best price” and limited edition offers.

“Unfortunately, they fail to scrutinise the background of the sellers prior to buying the products; the result – items never arrive or are fake products,” she told a press conference on Tuesday.

Referring to the NCCC Annual Report 2016, she said there were 7,371 complaints last year pertaining to online transactions, involving losses amounting to five million ringgit.

According to the report, the number of consumer complaints had also risen from 44,540 in 2015 to 48,563 in 2016.

The losses increased from RM233.76 million in 2015 to RM255.62 million in 2016.

“We expect the figure to rise next year because the scammers are becoming more cunning and are resorting to various devious schemes,” she said of online fraud.

NCCC was established in 2004 by the Education and Research Association for Consumers Malaysia and Selangor and Federal Territory Consumers Association.

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‘Tourism tax should be for tourists’

Sunday, July 30th, 2017

KOTA KINABALU: The exemption of Malaysians from paying Tourism Tax is as it should be because going by its name it should only be imposed on tourists.

Kota Kinabalu Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KKCCCI) President Datuk Michael Lui welcomed Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz’s statement that Malaysians are exempted from paying tourism tax.

The announcement came after weeks of debate over the wisdom and necessity of the tax which, in its original form, was imposed on accommodation premises from hostels to five-star hotels.

“Consistent with the definition of the tourism tax it should only be imposed on tourists instead of Malaysians,” said Lui.

Lui suggested that instead of imposing RM10 per room per night on foreign tourists at all types of accommodation premises, the RM10tourism tax should be exempted for those staying at accommodation rated three-star and below.

The tourists staying at four-star accommodation premises and above would have to pay tourism tax of RM10 per room per night.

“This move can ensure our global competitiveness in tourism, and to boost the Sabah tourism industry which is one of the main economic contributors to the state.”

Lui added that the plan to return RM1 for every RM10 in tax per room per night collected to the state government is too little for the purpose of promoting tourism in the state.

“KKCCCI would like to suggest that RM10 collected to be equally shared between the federal and state governments to develop tourism.”

He also urged the Tourism and Culture Ministry to accept the proposal made by both Sabah and Sarawak governments to defer the implementation date to April 2018. This is important for the operators to have enough time to install the system, and the custom authority to set up the mechanism.

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Seafood prices go up

Friday, July 21st, 2017

KOTA KINABALU: The wholesale price of seafood in the state capital and surrounding areas has increased by about 60 per cent compared to last year.

One of the reasons is the dwindling catch of fishermen who have seen a reduction of about 50 per cent in the last four months as compared to the same period last year.

“Our catch in March, April, May and June last year was about 100 metric tonnes, but this year, we are averaging only about 50 metric tonnes a month,” Kota Kinabalu Fishing Boat Owners Association (KKFBOA) chairman Simon Hong, said.

Speaking to the media here, Hong said one of the reasons attributed to the reduced catch was encroachment by foreign fishing vessels into Malaysian waters to fish.

Hong said the issue of encroachment by foreign fishing vessels, mostly from Vietnam, is a serious matter as they sometimes used destructive methods of fishing.

“Therefore, we at KKFBOA support Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s call to chase out all foreign fishing vessels in Malaysian waters,” he said.

KKFBOA hopes that the government will take immediate action to flush out foreign fishing vessels so that there will be less competition for the locals, he stressed.

by Nancy Lai

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Protecting ourselves from financial scams

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017
(file pix) Scammers often prey on the fear and greed of victims. To conquer these emotions, we must be rational and remember that high returns come form high risks.

REPORTS on recent cases of financial scams is a major cause for concern. Such cases seem to have risen unabated. The proliferation of information and communication technology (ICT) has made everyone at risk of becoming a victim of scams. How do we protect ourselves from becoming the next victim?

Over the years, financial regulators, together with stakeholders, have intensified efforts to protect the public from falling prey to financial scams. But still, people are losing their hard-earned money through scams, be they “get rich quick” schemes, illegal commodity and precious metal investments, or foreign exchange trading.

There were 1,883 cases of financial scams recorded between 2015 and April this year, resulting in losses of more than RM300 million. Scammers have used a broad array of attractive and lucrative schemes, even to the extent of using religion, such as fraud umrah packages.

It was reported in the New Straits Times earlier this year that some 3,400 fraud umrah packages, involving RM20 million, were recorded last year.

Advanced technology makes it easier for scammers. Anyone with access to the Internet is at risk of becoming a victim of a scam. Leveraging on ICT, the perpetrators are very sophisticated. Sometimes, we may not be able to tell the difference between illegal and genuine investment opportunities. Words like phishing, pharming, pretexting, smishing, money games and others that did not exist years ago are now becoming a major threat to the public.

Financial scams can happen to anyone, regardless of age, level of education and profession. Sadly, victims of scams will not only suffer financially, but also socially, such as family and marital problems, as well emotional and psychological complications.

The existence of new illegal schemes with attractive and lucrative offers can be explained by understanding the natural human financial behaviour that relates to a person’s financial decision-making with his inherent psychological emotion, namely fear and greed.

Fear and greed are irrational emotions that override rational decision-making, particularly in making a financial decision. Perpetrators use these emotions to their advantage by influencing and manipulating victims. They blur victims’ minds with fear and greed by providing convincing testimonies from friends, relatives or celebrities who seem to have received lucrative returns from the schemes.

Fear and greed will dominate a victim’s rational thinking, and they will feel that they cannot afford to miss out on the lucrative opportunity. Victims often invest small amounts, then receive financial returns that commensurate with the amount invested. This is to prove that the system works. But, subsequently, the unrestrained fear and greed will lead victims to invest more money in hopes of earning more. At this point, perpetrators may have fled with the money, and it will be too late for victims to realise their folly.

So how do we conquer our fear and greed? Instead of focusing on the lucrative returns promised by perpetrators, we need to ask one simple question: how much can we lose from such a scheme? What is the amount of losses in percentage and absolute terms should there be adversities in the investment? This is based on the established investment principle of high risks, high returns. Simply put, this principle means a high return can be gained by taking a high risk investment or venture.

Enquiring on losses instead of gains will often put perpetrators in trouble. If they cannot answer, it is obvious they are operating under a typical pyramid scheme, where money from new investors are used to pay existing investors. This provides an illusion that the system works, but unfortunately, it means that our hard-earned money is not invested in any viable businesses, stocks, shares, regulated commodities, currency trading or financial instruments. It will only be a matter of time before we lose all the money invested in the scheme.


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Defer Tourism Tax to next year, Sabah hoteliers urge

Friday, June 16th, 2017

Thomas (seated, 3rd from right) and other hoteliers and accommodation providers during the press conference.

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah hoteliers are asking that the implementation of the Tourism Tax be deferred to next year.

And if this is not possible, then it proposes that the collection of the tax be done at the Customs entry exit point of all major border crossings, airports and seaports.

“This would ensure that all tourists are subjected to the tax, regardless of who their accommodation provider is, and furthermore, it would be considerably simpler and easier to administer for the government,” said Malaysia Association of Hotels, Sabah and Labuan chapter president Thomas Willie at a press conference held at the Klagan Hotel.

Importantly, if the tax is set at a reasonable level at entry or exit points, it would ensure that the amount of revenue collected by the government would meet the budgeted amount.

He added that if the collection of tax was done in this way, the government can start imposing it tomorrow.

He stressed that industry players were not against the Tourism Tax but wants amendments in its provisions and a deferment on the implication date due to the following concerns.

He also expressed that they were more than happy to contribute their fair share towards tax revenue and to the continued growth of the tourism industry in Malaysia and Sabah, in particular.

“However, we feel that this contribution should be evenly shared across all participants, including those who operate outside the current system, and the cost to collect the tax should be kept to a minimum,” he said.

Among the concerns raised were that the current model of the tax unfairly places the burden to collect the tax on registered hotels operated by the industry members who are effectively tax collectors’ responsible for collecting the tax and paying this to the government.

Thomas also said that the rules governing the operation of the tax do not clearly address how unregistered accommodation providers including those operating under the umbrella of Airbnb would be brought into the system.

“Our expectation is with the introduction of the tax, the occupancy of the registered accommodation providers would be reduced as customers would look for alternative options such as unregistered providers and Airbnb,” he said.

He added that the application of the tax to local guests also unfairly burdens the people, who are already struggling to come to grips with more difficult economic conditions which include the increased cost caused by the depreciation of the ringgit and the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax.

More importantly, all accommodation providers who have contractual agreements with overseas wholesalers, tour operators and travels agents currently would only be able to include this tax in the new contracts which would come into effect in April 1, 2018, he said.

by Jenne Lajiun.

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Hotel bookings cancelled

Thursday, June 15th, 2017

KOTA KINABALU: Tourism industry players from the accommodation sector are very worried about the implications the implementation of the Tourism Tax 2017 on them.

Sabah Hotel Association president Christopher Chan said that the problems that will come up as a result of the new tax law are very real and cannot be ignored.

Chan when contacted yesterday stressed that if the implementation of the law is imminent, then the government must give the industry players time to prepare and inform their clients.

“We seek a year deferment because the rate quoted to our clients is valid for a year,” he said adding that some hotels in Sabah are already experiencing cancellation of bookings when the clients were informed of the new tax.

“We appeal to the government to defer the implementation due to the legal impact it would have on hoteliers as rates quoted to their clients are valid for a year and cannot be changed until 31st March 2018.

“The other issue is that cancellation is already happening when clients are notified of the additional tax that will be imposed. Should our hotels be sued by our clients for loss of business, who is going to indemnify us? We cannot absorb the tax daily on room sales either,” he stressed.

According to Chan, hoteliers would also have additional expenses as it will need to reprogram its accounting system and train its personnel on the new tax system.

“The hotel will have to engage their IT specialist to reprogram the accounting system to enable it to add in the tourism tax element. It will cost thousands of ringgit per hotel not to mention the training cost to be undertaken for the staff. On top of that we will have to pay the six per cent GST too,” he lamented.

Then there is the matter of unlicensed room and board providers, Chan said and pointed out that the demand for these illegally operated accommodation will definitely increase because people do not want to pay the additional tax.

He added that SHA, Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) Sabah Chapter, Malaysian Budget Hotels Association (MyBHA), Sabah Backpackers Association, Sabah Tourist Association and the representatives from the Sabah Budget Hotel Association recently paid a courtesy call on the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment’s Permanent Secretary Datu Rosmadi Datu Sulai.

During the meeting, they updated and presented him with their concern on the implications the proposed implementation of the Tourism Tax will have on the tourism industry, he said.

by Nancy Lai.

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Hotel operators: Tourism tax model unfair

Friday, June 9th, 2017

PETALING JAYA: Major hotel groups have submitted a memorandum to the Government to voice their concerns over the burden to collect tourism tax from Aug 1.

In a joint memorandum to the Finance Ministry, Customs Depart­ment, and Tourism and Culture Ministry, they said the tourism tax model unfairly imposed the burden of tax collection on registered hotels.

Malaysian Association of Hotels president Cheah Swee Hee said registered hotels would effectively be “tax collectors” responsible for collecting and paying the tax to the Government.

“It is not fair and equitable as it does not appropriately capture all participants in the marketplace nor does it tax equally the participants that are subjected to the tax,” said Cheah in a joint statement yesterday.

He said under the current model, hotel operators that have registered with the Tourism Ministry were automatically included in the scope of tourism tax.

Cheah said less than 15% of accommodation providers in Malaysia were registered with the ministry.

He said there were 3,126 registered accommodation providers while 6,452 were unregistered and another 11,698 operators provide accommodation through Airbnb.

Malaysian Association of Hotel Owners president Tan Sri Teo Chiang Hong said the industry only managed to achieve a 35% to 40% occupancy rate in recent years.

The tax would create an uneven playing field and encourage tourists to seek unlicensed hotels.

Malaysia Budget Hotel Associa­tion president PK Leong said the tax will burden locals who were already struggling with difficult economic conditions.

The tax rate is charged on a per-room, per-night basis.

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Report fish suspected to contain formalin

Thursday, June 8th, 2017

Kota Kinabalu: Consumers who suspect the use of formalin being laced or injected into fish at the market here have been urged to report the matter directly to the Kota Kinabalu Health Department.

The advice came City Hall Director-General Datuk Joannes Solidau following a post over social media by an Inanam resident whose father and brother-in-law started having diarrhoea, skin redness and breathing difficulty after consuming fish bought from the Inanam Night Market on Sunday.

“Yes, I read it in social media, in fact, City Hall has already had few operations before together with the Health Ministry and Fisheries Department to detect use of formalin in the Inanam Night Market and Central Market.

“But so far we have not detected any. This operation will continue but we urge the persons concerned to report the suspected fish to the Area Health Officer so that chemical tests can be done on the fish,” he said on Tuesday.

The 25-year-old resident, known only as Jaq, on Tuesday, said her mother went to the night market at about 7pm where she bought two kilos of fish.

“She came home and cooked the fish, my 58-year-old father and 29-year-old brother-in-law started having diarrhoea just five minutes after consuming the dish.

“Within minutes my brother-in-law’s face started to turn red, at first we thought it was an allergy to the fish but then the redness started to spread all over his body and he began having breathing difficulty,” she said.

She said her brother-in-law was supposed to return to Kota Belud that day and they decided to stop at a clinic in Kolombong where the doctor who attended to him said that it due to poisoning.

“The doctor suggested that the fish might have contained formalin,” she said, adding that her brother-in-law started to recover after being given an injection.

by Sherell Ann Jeffrey.

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Assess the situation before you bid

Friday, June 2nd, 2017

ITEMS can be bought or sold through bidding at an auction. This includes landed property, moveable property and other items that may fall under some other category.

In our country, auctions are more frequently in relation to properties – housing or commercial buildings, sometimes inclusive of the machinery inside.

Sometimes, a person buys an item at an auction because that is the only way in which the item can be purchased. In other cases, people buy items at auctions because they think that they are getting them at a cheaper price compared to arms-length sale and purchase. This is especially so when what is involved is a forced sale.

However, when it comes to the auction of a house or a building, it is not just a matter of going to the auction, paying the necessary deposit and thereafter successfully making the only or the highest bid. Much more is involved.

Properties sold in an auction are rarely in perfect condition. Nor is it likely to be a matter of bidding for the item and paying the full sum immediately, even if the bidder’s resources so permit. Walking away and taking over possession of the property is not what usually happens.

More frequently, an auction for such a property takes place after an order for sale is made by court pursuant to the application for foreclosure of the subject matter. But there are cases where properties have been auctioned without a court order.

This happens when there is no individual title and the property is absolutely assigned to the assignee with power to sell in the case of default. There would be the need to comply with any conditions that may be imposed for the purpose of such a sale.

In some such cases, disputes sometimes arise as to the manner in which the property is disposed. It is contended that even though there is no title and therefore no charge on the property, an order for sale from the court must still be obtained. Even where this proposition is denied, a delay will be caused.

More often than not, the properties that are auctioned are those that have been charged for a loan and the owner has defaulted in the payment of a loan. Thus, the applications for sale of property are more often made by banks and financial institutions.

There are cases where the owner may not be the borrower and yet his property is auctioned and sold. This happens where a person has allowed his property to be charged for a loan or credit to be given to a third party and the third party has defaulted in the repayment obligation.

Once an order for sale has been made by the court, central to the situation is the proclamation of sale. It is issued for the auctioneer, following the directions of the court where an order is obtained. It will be accompanied with the terms and conditions on which the auction is to be conducted and the property is sold.

Once a bid is made and it is accepted by the auctioneer, it becomes a binding contract to purchase the property on the terms stated.

The intending bidder can and should always obtain the terms and conditions of sale, study as well as understand them properly, and be aware what the effect of the terms and conditions of sale is. This is because the purchase at an auction upon the stipulated terms is not like an ordinary sale and purchase, where terms and agreements can be discussed.

It may be wise to seek advice or consult a solicitor as to any intricacies involved. A real estate agent who is experienced and familiar with purchases of properties at auctions could also help.

More often than not, the property is charged to a lender who would therefore be the chargee. Thus, it would be the chargee who will institute the foreclosure proceedings leading to the auction sale. At the time of creating of the security, the title deed would have been deposited with the chargee of the land.

Law For Everyone.

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Consumers advised not to pay for unsolicited items.

Friday, June 2nd, 2017

PETALING JAYA: Consumers who have received unsolicited products from online retailer LuxStyle should neither pay for the items nor send them back, the National Consumer Complaints Centre advised.

Its legal and policy senior manager Shabana Naseer Ahmad said the company’s modus operandi was to link its online advertisements to product listings without prices. Customers were required to register with their home and e-mail addresses to find out the prices.

Even if the customers did not make any purchase, she said, the company would still send products to their homes and demand payment via credit card or PayPal, or for the items to be returned to its headquarters in Denmark.

“My advice is to not send the item back. If you didn’t order it, why should you pay to return it? Don’t make any payment either or they may target you again,” Shabana told a press conference here yesterday.

She said the centre had received more than 50 complaints about the company over the last two weeks, with victims being mostly young women in the Klang Valley.

She said some victims had also lodged police reports.

They were all sent a package of blackhead removal masks, which apparently cost RM150 with an additional RM40 for processing and delivery.

The centre was drafting a position paper to the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry on the matter and has also urged the Malaysian Communi­cations and Multimedia Commission to block the website.

“We aren’t saying they are scammers since products are delivered, but their sales method appears deceptive and contravenes the Personal Data Protection Act 2010,” said Shabana.

The centre’s legal and policy manager Mandeep Singh said recipients should not open or use the products.

Malaysian Digital Economy Consumer Association secretary-general Muhammad Sha’ani Abdullah said a consumer’s credit rating could actually be affected by not paying the invoice, an issue that had affected victims in Australia.

So far, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the European Consumer Centre Finland have both issued similar warnings, while Facebook Canada has banned advertisements by LuxStyle. Victims in Singapore have formed a Facebook group to collect complaints.

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