Limiting purchases could spark another round of panic buying, says consumer group

The Malaysia Consumers Movement is urging people to buy only what they need for the next two weeks.

PETALING JAYA: A consumer group has disagreed with calls for Putrajaya to limit the purchase of basic necessities at supermarkets to ensure sufficient supplies throughout the two-week movement control order (MCO), saying this could instead spark another round of panic buying.

The Malaysia Consumers Movement (MCM) says capping the number of purchases as suggested by Pakatan Harapan (PH) would imply that there is not enough stock in the market.

“If you start placing limits, consumers will presume there is an issue with supplies and this may further fuel panic buying. That’s the last thing we want,” MCM activist Ben Johl told FMT.

The opposition coalition had recently mooted the idea, saying it could be done under the authority of the domestic trade and consumer affairs ministry.

Alternatively, PH said, supermarkets could place such limits themselves.

This followed reports of panic buying and profiteering due to the MCO, implemented to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Johl said capping the number of purchases might be an option if consumers continue to buy in bulk and hoard such necessities. However, he urged the authorities to avoid implementing such a limit at this time.

“At this point in time, the government needs to continue assuring the people that there is enough stock, and that they should purchase only what is needed.”

Consumers for their part should purchase items as they did on a regular basis and buy only what they need.

“It’s a restricted movement order, not a lockdown. People must understand this.”

In England, two major grocers – Tesco and Sainsbury’s – were forced to restrict purchases to combat panic buying by British shoppers, while Indonesian police ordered retailers to ration purchases of staples to contain panic buying amid a spike of Covid-19 in the republic.

On Monday, panic buying broke out among Malaysian shoppers following rumours that the government would issue a curfew order.

The MCO was announced by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin later that night.