Thursday, July 26, 2007

The right stuff.

Sorry, I couldn't resist the NKOTB title.

Read this in The Star today:
SHAH ALAM: A government plan to teach consumerism in primary and secondary schools will ensure a wiser new generation of consumers.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry and Education Ministry were in talks to make this possible.

It will not be a new subject but will be inserted into the present curriculum with the aim of producing a generation of wise consumers.

“We want students to be exposed to consumerism from an early stage,” he told reporters after launching Malaysia Consumers Day at the Malawati Stadium here yesterday.

As to what they would be taught, he said it would include how to act as a consumer group and individual consumers, compare prices, recognise reasonable prices and quality products, as well as consumer rights.

“When consumers act as a group by networking with consumer groups and associations, we can have a stronger consumer movement in the country,” he said.

Earlier in his speech, Najib said that awareness on consumerism needed to be enhanced to allow consumers to play a more active and effective role as an important force that shaped the country’s socio-economy.

When consumers come together, they can become a greater force as a pressure group against ruthless traders who set cutthroat prices and profiteer,” he added.

Najib said consumers were the biggest group of people who could influence or be influenced by decisions made by the Government, more so those by traders.

“The Government is aware that there are some instances where consumer groups are not being managed well. But we recognise that consumers are the basis to any economic activity,” he said.

He urged traders to include aspects of consumerism as important elements in their companies’ business policies and strategies.

For this purpose, the Government will support self-regulation initiatives for the benefit of consumers. This will also directly benefit traders because what is good for consumers is also good for business.

“This will also realise our aim to reduce bureaucracy, which will reduce the cost of doing business,” he said.

Najib also told traders, especially retailers, to be environment-friendly by switching to paper bags instead of using plastic ones

Well, slap me on the butt and call me your ho'!

I did not know that I had rights as a consumer in Malaysia. I mean, I know I had rights but I'm sure most of us know that when you say that word in Malaysia, you should also signal with your index and middle fingers that it should be in inverted commas.

Intrigued, I googled it and came up with myGovernment, the Malaysia Government's official portal and searched for 'consumer rights'. It had this to say:

Malaysian consumers have rights that are protected through various laws and regulations. These rights can be exercised through the Consumer Association Malaysia which is a non-governmental consumers' organization, which defends the rights and interest s of consumers.

Consumers' rights concerning food, housing, health care, sanitation, public transport, education, public policy, human rights and the environment amongst others can be brought up to the association.

Compare this with:

Australian governments share the statutory responsibility for consumer protection. The Australian Government has the primary policy setting role, while the State and Territory governments make and enforce the majority of consumer legislation.

The Australian Government agencies that look after consumer protection are the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). The consumer protection divisions of the Treasury also provide consumer policy advice to the Australian Government.

The ACCC operates within the framework of the Trade Practices Act 1974 and works with other national and international agencies to promote consumer protection, mainly at the national corporation level.

All of the ACCC’s regional offices undertake enforcement work, usually where a practice may have Australia-wide implications or a complaint relates to a national campaign.

ASIC is responsible for consumer protection in financial services and enforces consumer protection under the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act 2001.

Enquiries and complaints about financial service providers should be referred directly to ASIC.

The Treasury's consumer affairs division gives the Australian Government consumer protection policy advice within the provisions of the Trade Practices Act.

The Treasury hosts and maintains the (the Ministerial Council on Consumer Affairs) web site.

I know that it is unfair to compare the consumer policies of different countries but I am just trying to highlight an important point here.

I'm all for the DPM raising awareness but what about enforcement? Why is the group that defends the rights of consumers non-governmental? Isn't that more red tape?

When he said that the consumers can "become a greater force as a pressure group against ruthless traders who set cutthroat prices and profiteer”, does that mean that the government expects the consumers to gang-up and take the law into their own hands? It sure sounds like it because from my understanding through reading the mission statements of these associations (FOMCA & CASSA), they do not have the power to uphold or enforce the law. They're like security guards, not the police.

Awareness is one thing but it all boils down to enforcement doesn't it? No warning that the government will take swift action on those practices that violate the safety and protection of consumers' rights? I reckon the prosecution of offenders would serve as a more effective tool in raising the awareness of consumers don't you?

Oh, and the link for the Consumer Association Malaysia in myGovernment doesn't work. SHOCK! HORROR!


the witch's broo said...

you've said it, brother!

zewt said...

first, the subject in school is just going to be another pendidikan moral fiasco. there will be plenty of distinctions but all will be so damn stupid.

as for being smart consumers... the garmen allow prices of essential goods to increase, like flour recently. and then they want us to be smart... how? by not eating?

Cirnelle said...

We are consumers of civil services. Pressure, anyone?

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