CONSUMERS sourcing goods and services from the World Wide Web will be better protected as the law will now force sellers to display everything that buyers would want to know before making any transactions.
Enforcers from the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry will be coming down hard on online sellers, including those plying their trade on social media like Facebook and Instagram, who fail to put up or deliberately omit the prices of their goods and services.
Red flags that would trigger enforcers to act against errant sellers include when they see interested buyers posting messages like “PM me, sis” on the thread of a product for sale.
The ministry’s enforcement director, Datuk Mohd Roslan Mahayudin, said online sellers would come under scrutiny as close as conventional retailers.
They, he added, would also face the same kind of punishments.
Individuals running online businesses without observing the eight requirements listed out by the ministry could be slapped with a fine of up to RM50,000 or face a jail term of not more than three years, or both.
They are required by the Consumer Protection Act 1999 to display (on their sites) the following:
THE full prices of the goods or services, including the taxes and transportation or other costs;
NAME of the person operating the business or the company and business name;
BUSINESS or company registration number;
EMAIL address, telephone number or address of the person running the business;
DESCRIPTION of the main characteristics of the goods or services;
METHODS of payment;
TERMS and conditions; and,
ESTIMATED delivery time.
“We are fully enforcing this law after having relaxed on this to allow traders to adjust accordingly,” Roslan said.
“We want consumers to be better covered... Their rights must be protected, and they must be able to make informed purchasing decision with details on prices, the products and services, who they are dealing with and hidden charges at their fingertips.
“So, if a person is selling a cat, for example, he must display the price he wants for it... He cannot simply say ‘private message if interested’... Not any more.”
The country first introduced the requirement for price tagging in 1977 when the Price Control Order (Indication of Price by Retailer) was introduced.
The law, which then covered only those in retail, was replaced with the Price Control Order
(Indication of Price by Retailer) 1993.
When e-commerce began to grow and cases of online fraud became rampant, the government came out with the Consumer Protection (Electronic Trading Transaction) Regulations 2012 to rein in errant online traders.
Roslan said his team of enforcers included a specific one to smoke out unscrupulous online sellers.
“We don’t have issues with sellers who use online marketplaces such as Zalora and Lazada as most of them comply with our law.
“Our problem is with those using social media to ply their trade.
“We have given them ample time. Now, they have to display their prices or we will go after them.”
Roslan urged the public to work with the ministry to ensure traders complied with the display requirements and tell on them if they failed to do so by calling the enforcement division at 1-800-886-800.