GEORGE TOWN: A consumer group has urged the public to play its part in ensuring that businesses and traders do not raise prices unfairly once the sales and service tax (SST) is implemented in September.
Activist SM Mohamed Idris, who is president of the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP), said people should start saving their receipts to compare any changes in the price of goods.
He said based on their experience when the goods and services tax (GST) was implemented two years ago, receipts were the only way to fight profiteering.
“While we urge the public to be cautious with their spending and cut mindless purchases, we must also keep a close eye on all businesses and traders on how they raise prices after the SST.
“Demand for your receipts from every purchase you make, and compare them after the SST is implemented. That way you will know whether or not you are being taken for a ride.”
Idris told FMT that those who were overcharged should send a complaint to the domestic trade and consumer affairs ministry and demand that action be taken.
“It is time for us to inculcate the ‘receipt culture’, which is sorely lacking,” he said.
He also suggested that the ministry set up booths or beat bases at popular markets around the country before the tax comes into effect.
This way, he said, shoppers could file a report if they felt prices had been unfairly increased, doing away with the need to dial up hotline numbers.
He said the presence of beat bases would also provide a “subliminal reminder” to traders that they are being watched and that enforcement action could be taken against them if the need arose.
“Most Malaysians might be too busy to lodge complaints, so what better way to record them than immediately after shopping?” he added.
The Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca) meanwhile advised the government to address complaints in a timely manner as many consumers had reported waiting for a long time or being ignored on matters such as unfair increases in the price of goods.
Fomca CEO Paul Selvaraj said the government had recorded over 1,500 complaints when the GST was implemented, the bulk of which were over the hike in prices, lack of receipts issued by traders or businesses, and no GST identification numbers.
He said unlike the GST, the SST would be a “silent tax” as the charges would not appear on receipts and invoices since they only affected the manufacturing side.
“We do not know what products will be affected by the SST, although there have been a few announcements here and there,” he added.
Consumers’ Association of Subang and Shah Alam president Jacob George suggested that the government improve enforcement across the board as history had shown that not all businesses self-regulated when it came to pricing.
He said the impact of the SST would be felt during future festive periods such as Deepavali, Christmas and Chinese New Year.
He also advised the government to engage with consumer groups to discuss the possibility of costs escalating due to the SST.
“A Cabinet select committee comprising consumer groups around the country should convene, as these groups are the government’s partners in addressing the rise of prices.
“Many groups are of the opinion that the new government is not communicating enough with consumer groups. We want to help the government, maybe come up with an action plan to stave off price increases during festive periods. It takes two hands to clap,” he said.
The SST will be implemented from Sept 1 following the passing of a bill on Aug 7, which will now have to get approval from the Senate. The rate will be set at 10% for sales and 6% for services.
The SST is only applicable on 38% of the consumer price index basket of goods and services, compared with the GST which covers 60%.
The single-stage tax applies to manufacturers and not end users, the finance ministry had said.
The opposition bench in Parliament had warned against dismantling the 6% GST, but Pakatan Harapan MP Tony Pua said this would drive down the prices of goods.
Pua told the Parliament that even if the GST was lowered to 3% as suggested by the opposition, it would remain an expensive affair as businesses had to pay miscellaneous fees to keep up with the consumption tax.
He said the cost of collecting the GST itself would be expensive even if the tax was lowered to 3%.