Face masks should be ‘essential item’ says consumer group

The government has capped the price of a three-ply face mask at RM1.50.

PETALING JAYA: A consumer group today urged the government to ensure there are enough face masks in the market after reducing the ceiling price to RM1.50 apiece.

Face masks may be considered as an essential item during the Covid-19 crisis, said consumerist Beninder Johl, vice-president of the Malaysia Consumer Movement.

He told FMT that people wanted face masks to be easily available and at a reasonable price. “There is no use if the cost is lowered but there is no availability,” he said in response to the government announcement of a cap on face mask prices.

Earlier today the government said a three-ply face mask will be capped at RM1.50 from tomorrow, which will see it go down by 50 sen.

Senior minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said face masks are imported and because of that the government could not determine their prices.

Johl proposed that the government provide a subsidy on the price of face masks during the Covid-19 crisis to ensure everyone has access to them.

On petrol prices, he said although they have been declining for several weeks, it may not cause an overnight reduction in the prices of goods.

He said fuel is an important cost component of business but Malaysia practises an open market system where the prices of goods and services are dictated by supply and demand.

“If the cost of a product becomes cheaper, healthy competition will help adjust the price accordingly,” he said.

Johl said hoarding and profiteering elements could be the reason why prices of goods have not come down.

He said consumers should highlight any profiteering activity so that action can be taken.

He also said that although Malaysia has strong anti-profiteering laws in place, the number of enforcement officers are limited.