WHETHER they are tied up, glued on, nailed or framed, one can see illegal advertisements everywhere – on streetlights, trees, and even road signs.
From advertisements of upcoming events, and moneylender services to the sale of adult toys, such advertisements have become an almost permanent feature of Kuala Lumpur’s landscape.
Fed up with illegal “advertisers”, Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) is going hard on owners of premises where an event is to be held based on information stated in the illegal advertisements.
Beginning June 1, the stakes are higher for these premises owners, such as management of shopping complexes and exhibition halls.
Any commercial advertising via banners, bunting or posters without approval can result in the suspension or termination of their business licence.
DBKL Licensing and Petty Traders Management Department director Datuk Ibrahim Yusof said the move was the next phase in its war against illegal advertisements.
“Many of the advertisements put up are by private business owners and exhibition organisers.
“Although the owners or event organisers put up the ads through a third party, the premises owner must still take responsibility.
“Previously, if we saw any banner or poster with company names or highlighting events, we would send them two warning notices.
“If they failed to comply, we would compound them.
“Now, we will revoke their licences if they do not adhere to the set conditions,” he said.
Ibrahim said commercial advertising on the streets was not legal.
“Only the Government is allowed to advertise its events.
“Those wanting to advertise their products and services have to go through the proper channels such as advertising in newspapers and on LED signboards on streets,” he added.
“The perpetrators know that even if they are caught, the penalty is low.
“That is why Kuala Lumpur mayor Datuk Seri Mohd Amin Nordin Abdul Aziz has called for a review of the fines imposed.
“We want to review the existing compounds and make amendments to increase the maximum fine from RM2,000 to RM50,000 as a deterrent,” Ibrahim said.
Currently a maximum of RM2,000 fine is imposed for the offence of putting up illegal advertisements in the city.
The penalty is provided for under Advertisement By-laws (Federal Territory) 1982 and the Vandalism By-laws (Federal Territory Kuala Lumpur) 1991.
Datuk Pardip Kumar Kukreja, a member of Pemudah (Special Taskforce to Facilitate Businesses), said illegal advertisements were one of the top three concerns raised by foreign investors, behind crime and traffic congestion issues.
Pardip, who co-chairs the Illegal Advertisement Taskforce with Ibrahim, said sterner action was needed to deal with the issue.
“The problem persists because the penalty is not harsh enough.
“Even the cost of printing the materials is cheap, so the offenders do not feel the pinch when the advertisements are removed.
“They will just reprint and put them up again,” he said.
He added that DBKL could not act against companies caught printing illegal advertisements as there were no legal provision to do so.
“As they are not violating printing laws by producing these materials, it remains a lucrative business for printing companies,” he said.
However, Pardip said the authorities had seen a significant improvement in the seven months since the establishment of the taskforce.
“We have 14 teams comprising six to eight personnel to remove illegal advertisements.
“While the first few months were focused on the city centre, we are now targetting Segambut, Kepong and Seputeh,” he said.
Last year, DBKL removed 1.3 million illegal posters, banners, bunting and stickers and was close to reaching 500,000 in the first half of the year.
DBKL also worked with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to cancel the telephone numbers displayed on illegal advertisements.
Since last year, 1,829 telephone numbers listed on illegal advertisements had been submitted to MCMC of which, 1,256 were terminated.
Over 670 compounds were issued while 520 cases were taken to court.
What’s interesting is that the illegal banners were not simply discarded, but upcycled.
“Through the Local Agenda 21 (LA21), illegal banners collected in the city are made into reusable bags, aprons and stationery cases,” Pardip said.
Bukit Bandaraya Residents Association advisor Datuk M. Ali said the community had been actively keeping their area free of illegal advertisements for the past 10 years.
“We are totally against the display of bunting, whether legal or illegal, in our housing area.
“For over a decade we have been pursuing DBKL to stop issuing licences and to take legal action against the culprits.
“We also suggested that DBKL study the legal aspects and stipulate a condition in the annual permits or licences issued by them.
“We are happy that it is being addressed now,” he said.
However, Ali said digital display boards in lieu of traditional advertising being placed close to traffic lights junctions on the streetlamps were a traffic hazard.
“DBKL must not only be concerned with revenue generation but must be proactive towards safety as well,” he said.
The Mont Kiara Consultative Council (MKCC), comprising 48 entities including resident associations, management corporations and joint management bodies, said the communities must take an active role.
Its chairman Carol Lee said each member would monitor a zone to ensure it was free of advertisements.
“It is unrealistic to expect DBKL to continuously ensure there are no illegal advertisements.
“So, whenever we see any posters or stickers, we will inform DBKL before removing them.
“We must not have the perception that this is the authorities’ job and wait for them to take action,” she said, adding that the council had been actively removing illegal advertising since May.