Let there be fair competition

Tow truck drivers parking their vehicles at an empty space next to the North-South Expressway near the Juru toll plaza during the three-day protest. —Filepic

YOU won’t feel it unless you have been a victim of unfortunate circumstances.

That’s what a relative told me when she heard news that independent workshop and tow truck operators in Penang had gone on strike recently.

It is learnt that 35 members of the Penang Motor Vehicles Workshop Owners Association closed their workshops and did not accept cars in need of repairs after accidents.

The move was seen as a protest against the alleged monopoly of authorised franchise workshops (those with authorised dealerships from automakers) in carrying out repairs and maintenance on new cars provided under a five-year warranty.

The strike lasted for three days. Repair and tow truck services resumed after the Federation of Automobile Workshop Owners Association of Malaysia had a fruitful meeting with Domestic Trade and Consumers Affairs Ministry officers.

Back to my relative’s story.

A huge piece of a zinc porch roof landed right on top of her car on Aug 9.

The heavy structure from a neighbouring house had been ripped up and flew for a few metres mid-air before it came crashing down.

It was the day when the tail-end of Typhoon Lekima paralysed many parts of the state, with strong winds said to have exceeded 100kph.

The car roof had to be replaced, together with the right side of the passenger window at a franchise workshop.

And she only got her car back last Thursday, about four months after the incident.

Imagine not having a car to travel around with. It proved to be extremely frustrating and inconvenient.

After looking at the picture of the damaged car, a car workshop operator registered with the General Insurance Association of Malaysia (Piam) said the repair works could have been done in less than a month.

In the past, we have heard stories that new car warranties could be voided if the cars had been repaired elsewhere instead of a franchise workshop.

That’s how the protest by the Penang Motor Vehicles Workshop Owners Association came into the picture.

Their complaints included voiding car owners’ warranty for opting for independent workshops, a lack of transparency in warranty regulations and double standards employed by insurance companies.

In essence, the moves, as claimed by the association, were in violation of the Competition Act.

Workshop operator Ch’ng Hong Choon said compelling drivers to repair their vehicles only at franchise workshops was bad as consumers should have the right to choose.

Another workshop owner, Chan Kok Hoe, said: “If you get a knock on the bumper and take your car here, I might be able to knock it back in shape and give it a new coat of paint for less than RM300.

“But if you take it to a franchise workshop, they might not be able to do it and tell you to replace the entire bumper for RM2,000.

“This has happened many times and it’s unfair to the car owners,” he said, adding they want the authorities to intervene.

Perhaps, besides protecting consumers, the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry should ensure that the rights and interests of local industry players and businesses are protected.

As former Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister Datuk Seri Hasan Malek once said, traders and businesses have their rights, too, and it is the ministry’s duty to balance the interest of businesses and consumers to ensure a healthy domestic market.

The aim is to find the middle ground, a balance between supply and demand, consumers and traders, so that there may be fertile ground for growth and prosperity.

At press time, the Penang Motor Vehicles Workshop Owners Association is still in talks with the relevant authorities to work out a win-win solution.

Let’s hope everything ends well. Let there be fair competition for all businesses to thrive and in the best interest of consumers.

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workshop , tow truck operators , Penang


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