Ministry mulls shopping charge

PETALING JAYA: A proposal is being made to impose an extra charge of 20 sen for purchases between RM200 and RM1,000 made online, says Deputy Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Zahidi Zainul Abidin.

However, Federal Territories Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa is quick to object, making it clear in a tweet that no matter how much the amount, it was something the government has not made a decision on.

“It’s a policy matter, if it comes to the Cabinet, I would surely object, ” he said his tweet yesterday.

Zahidi said no additional charge would be imposed on purchases below RM200 while an additional 20 sen would be charged for the next RM1,000 block of purchase.

“We are discussing the plan to be tabled to the government so as to find alternate resources that will not burden the people, and we also want to give the best services to them.

“So, the additional charge will be like the service charge, and if the purchase exceeds RM1,000, the additional charge will be 40 sen, ” he told reporters after attending the Kelantan-level Merdeka@Komuniti programme in Pengkalan Petah yesterday as reported by Bernama.

This, he said, was a measure to raise a special fund to assist the B40 group, including improving communications infrastructure in rural areas.

Sunway University professor of economics Dr Yeah Kim Leng lauded the move, saying the public would be supportive if it was done in a transparent and accountable manner.

“The charge is relatively small which online consumers won’t find that burdensome, as long as consumers are provided with the information on how much funds are raised and how it is spent to help those in the B40 group.“Generally, the Malaysian public are supportive of pro-B40 moves to uplift the quality of their life, ” he said when contacted.

He noted that transparency and accountability were crucial as there already exist allocation for fiberisation, including contributions from telecommunication companies to help bridge the rural-urban digital divide.

Consumer Association of Penang president Mohideen Abdul Kader also stressed the need for transparency and proper implementation.

On whether the extra service charges would burden consumers, Mohideen said it would not as consumers already incur additional expenses when they leave their homes to buy things.

“If you go to the supermarket to buy things, you will need to spend on travel as well.

Economic expert Prof Datuk Dr Amir Hussin Baharuddin also supported the proposal, saying that it was a way to redistribute income among the more wealthy to the poorer in society.

“If we don’t do it, only the rich will live well while the poor will lose out, ” he said.

He noted that the proposed percentage charge of only 0.02% for online purchases of between RM200 and RM1,000 was minimal and would not burden consumers.

“We should not view the government’s proposal negatively when it is meant to help those in the B40 group.

“We will be able to help the B40 group, especially in the rural areas, to better their lives.”

Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca) chief executive officer Datuk Dr Paul Selvaraj said this was not the right to time to impose the extra charges on consumers in light of the current economic situation.

“People are already suffering a lot due to loss of jobs. Also, a lot of those in the B40 and M40 have moved towards online purchasing due to Covid-19 social distancing, ” he said.

He said the government should instead look at ways to raise money from companies offering online purchasing services.

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