Watch what you buy online during Covid-19, say groups

Substandard face masks and hand sanitisers are among the items being sold online during the Covid-19 crisis.

PETALING JAYA: A consumer group has urged the public to keep an eye out for fake goods sold online, including essential items like hand sanitisers and face masks, as they could be harmful.

The Consumers Association of Penang urged the domestic trade and consumer affairs ministry to carry out checks to prevent unscrupulous parties from taking advantage of buyers during the Covid-19 crisis.

“The people must also be more careful and buy goods only from reputable shops,” its president Mohideen Abdul Kader told FMT.

Saying the use of fake items could be harmful to a person’s health, he also urged authorities at checkpoints to step up inspection of goods.

On March 19, Interpol said on its website that authorities in 90 countries had seized substandard hand sanitisers, counterfeit face masks and unauthorised antiviral medication under Operation Pangea XIII.

During the operation, Interpol member countries reached out to the public to raise awareness of the dangers of buying pharmaceuticals from unregulated sources online.

Interpol quoted health ministry senior principal assistant director Norlida Abdul Rahman as saying Malaysia was promoting awareness among the public as reducing demand was an important aspect of Operation Pangea.

Ameer Ali Mydin, managing director of the Mydin chain of hypermarkets, said when buying online, it was best to buy directly from retailers or through retailer stores.

“We are concerned about some online marketplaces because we don’t know if they take responsibility for the things sold on their platforms,” he said.

Ameer said buying directly from the manufacturer’s or retailer’s websites was the safest.

“This is not the time to take risks. To be fair to the enforcement authorities (from the domestic trade and consumer affairs ministry), their main focus is to ensure a sufficient supply of food and that there is no hoarding or hiking of prices.”

The Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy said it was concerned about those promoting alternative therapies that were not based on evidence or science.

The think tank’s CEO, Azrul Mohd Khalib, said the health ministry’s Pharmaceutical Services Programme (PSP) was tasked with protecting Malaysians from unregistered, bogus and harmful pharmaceutical and traditional products.

“Malaysians should play their part in reporting to the PSP when they encounter such products as enforcement is only as good as the intelligence gathered.

“The health ministry cannot be expected to be everywhere and doing everything,” he said.