AT THE Malaysian Indian Muslim Congress’ (Kimma) annual general meeting, Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor ruffled a few feathers for saying that some mamak restaurants overcharge their customers.
Based on the transcript of the speech made available to StarMetro, Tengku Adnan said that even though subsidies on sugar had been reduced by 34sen per kilo, some eateries had raised the price of teh tarik by 50sen.
Following the brouhaha, StarMetro reporters patronised 10 restaurants in the central business districts (CBD) of Kuala Lumpur and ordered the Malaysian staple of roti canai and teh tarik to gauge the price difference. We included warm water for good measure.
We discovered that on average, the price of a glass of teh tarik ranged between RM1.20 and RM2.10 – a price difference of as high as 75%.
For roti canai, the price ranged between RM1 and RM1.60 or a difference of almost 60%.
In total, an average meal ranged between RM2.30 and RM3.80; meaning the food can cost up to 65% more in different CBDs.
The price of warm water ranged between 20sen and 50sen. Only one restaurant provided water free of charge.
The cheapest meal was found in a Sentul restaurant which offered teh tarik and roti canai for only RM1.30 and RM1 respectively. Water was free of charge.
The most expensive meal was in Bangsar, where a glass of teh tarik was priced at RM1.90 while an eatery in Jalan Ampang charged RM2.10.
For the record, some of these places had flat television screens, air coolers, nice chairs and were relatively clean. But there were others, where the fans were not working and it was hot, stuffy and dirty.
Not wrong, but ...
According to the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry (KPDNKK), the government does not fix prices for goods and services. But it does control the price of essential goods like sugar, petrol, including LPG (liquified petroleum gas), cooking oil and flour.
The ministry also has a Price Control Scheme for items in high demand during festive seasons such as Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Chinese New Year and Deepavali.
KPDNKK Supplies and Price Section head Guna Selan Marian said the operators of restaurants and food outlets were free to fix their own prices.
“However, businesses can be investigated for profiteering should there be a drastic difference in prices or complaints from consumers,” he said, adding they could not increase prices as and when they wish.
While the provisions of the PCAPA 2011 (Price Control and Anti-Profiteering Act 2011) gives the minister power to control the prices of essential goods, it is done only when necessary.
“Consumers should know the price before they buy goods or consume food,” Guna Seelan said.
The ministry’s Anti-Profiteering Unit senior principal assistant director Low Swee Hon explained The Price Control Order 1993 makes it mandatory for retailers to have price tags for all goods in their shops.
“Retailers must put a price tag for every single item in their shop and this includes sample items on display too.
“This is crucial so consumers can compare prices before buying. As the regulation is from 1993, it only applies to certain goods in hypermarkets and supermarkets,” Low said, adding the ministry was looking to update it.
Restaurants operators must come up with a price list too, and it must be displayed prominently at the cashier counter.
Insist on receipts
Guna Seelan said the receipts issued by restaurants must show a clear and complete breakdown of items, including the goods and services tax (GST).
“Each and every item must be listed separately and not lumped together as makanan (food),” he stressed.
Under the Goods and Services Tax Act 2014, GST registration is mandatory if a business has achieved an annual turnover of RM500,000 or more.
Under the Consumer Protection Act 1999, consumers who request for a detailed receipt but not given one can lodge a complaint with the ministry.
He said the ministry has about 6,000 officers, nationwide, who go incognito to monitor prices with about 150 in Kuala Lumpur.
Up to May, the ministry had investigated about 152 cases in Kuala Lumpur under the PCAPA 2011 for businesses that flouted the profiteering and price-tagging rules
According to Guna Seelan, restaurants are allowed to charge for warm water as long as it is listed in the bill.
“If the charges are unreasonably high, we can take action,” he said.
Guna Seelan recounted a case in Penang where a customer was charged 50sen for water he had not asked for.
“He would bring his own water bottle and order food from the stalls outside. The owner of the restaurant who was selling drinks, charged him 50sen.
“When he lodged a complaint with us, we visited the place and the owner pointed to a sign indicating that 50sen would be charged if you bring your own water,” he said, adding the owner did the right thing by listing the cost.
Similarly, there was a complaint about a restaurant in Kuala Lumpur that charged a patron “air conditioning” charges.
As long as it is made clear to the patron that air conditioning charges would apply, it is not wrong.
Guna Seelan said people should always know what they are paying for.
“Keep your receipts and if you feel that you have been overcharged, lodge a complaint with the ministry and not on social media,” he advised.
Consumers can call their toll free number 1-800-886-800 or lodge a report at e-aduan.kpdnkk.gov.my