Time for consumerism

  • Business
  • Thursday, 04 Jun 2009

COMMODITY prices are once again on the move up and we as consumers may soon be looking at a scenario that most of us dread to deal with.

Higher prices of basic items will translate to more expensive goods and signs are beginning to emerge that price pressures could soon creep back into the system.

Taxi fares will soon see a huge jump. It’s been years since taxis got a price hike in fares but that would mean higher cost for people who use that form of public transport.

Then there is the price of fuel. The Government has announced that the price of fuel at the pump will increase from September to pay for the introduction of RON95.

And with the price of crude oil testing US$70 a barrel and prices of other commodities rising dramatically over the past couple of months, inflationary pressures might soon return, much to the chagrin of Malaysians.

But what choice do we have? One avenue is consumerism.

For a long time, consumers will moan and complain about the food being expensive but nonetheless would grudgingly proceed to pay for that expensive cup of teh tarik, roti canai or chicken rice.

The option many have to take is to refuse to pay exorbitant prices of goods especially for those where the profit margin is extremely high. If it means foregoing your favourite stall or food, then so be it.

Consumers too have to make smart choices and it’s nice to know that the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry has extended a helping hand.

At http://www.smartpengguna.my, consumers can check on the prices of goods sold by hypermarkets. At a glance, the system is not perfect but it is a good start.

Beyond that, the Government too has a much bigger role to play. Consumers can do their part in seeking the cheapest goods but to ensure that prices are indeed low, competition has to increase and antitrust legislation has to be enacted.

Flooding the market with goods is one way to keep prices down. Industry and entrepreneurs might not like it but fierce competition would only lead to lower prices and better quality products and services.

Companies that are able to provide that will emerge winners and become stronger as a result and in the end it will be the proverbial win-win solution for both industry and consumers.

Legislation is, however, the stick that the Government must use to ensure consumer rights are not infringed upon.

Many countries have introduced such laws but sadly in Malaysia, talk of such anti-competition laws has only been that. Talk.

Jagdev Singh Sidhu is a deputy news editor at the Star. He thinks the time has come to make sure that consumer rights are not taken for a ride.

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