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Thursday, May 8, 2014

‘Standardise prices before imposing GST’

Ng Suzhen | April 29, 2014

Due to the decades old cabotage policy East and West Malaysia have different prices on common items.

KOTA KINABALU: Prices of goods in East and West Malaysia should be standardised before the Goods and Services Tax (GST) is implemented, said Consumer Affairs and Protection Society Sabah (CAPS).

Its president James Bagah said only then would the tax make sense to Sabahans and Sarawakians.

Due to the decades old cabotage policy West and East Malaysia have different prices on common items.

This has been a bane on East Malaysians, who pay between 20-40% more for consumer items than their West Malaysian counterparts.

“GST should be abolished for Sabahans and Sarawakians because consumers here are already paying a much higher price than those in peninsular Malaysia.

“It should not be imposed on us because this is an additional burden on the people. This is equivalent to East Malaysians being doubly taxed on goods,” said a frustrated Bagah.

Aware that the GST Bill has been approved by parliament, Bagah nonetheless said the federal government has the power to withhold on implementating the new tax system.

“We want the government to consider abolishing or withhold the GST for East Malaysia unless the prices we pay for goods are the same as that being paid in the peninsular.

“Only then will it be considered fair to us. 1Malaysia should have one price mechanism,” he said.

Bagah further added that if and when implemented the GST would be open to abuse by unethical traders.

Warnings not enough

He urged the government to come down hard on errant businessmen.

“The government must come down hard on these businesses.

“Simply issuing repeated warnings to them will not be effective.

“The government should enforce harsher punishment on those who take advantage of consumers.

“Only harsh penalties will deter them from committing the same offence in future,” he said citing cases where prices displayed did not tally with the actual payment.

Customers, he said, had the right to know about hidden costs and it is imperative for businesses to include taxes into the displayed amount.

“Take fast food outlets for example, prices never include the imposed taxes.

“While there might be arguments that the fine print does state the extra paying price, people in general do not really read fine prints.

“The font is too small to be read, allowing business establishments to get away with already ‘fulfilling their responsibilities’ while customers are being deceived by the strategy.

“It is important that consumers are educated to be aware of their rights and learn to be particular when it comes to pricing to avoid being cheated,” said Bagah.

Don’t blame government

Meanwhile, state Assistant Community Development and Consumer Affairs Minister Anita Baranting urged the public not to blame the government for price hikes, saying it was the work of unscrupulous businessmen.

Echoing Bagah, she said it was important for the public to know their rights as consumers.

“The government, through the Domestic Trade, Coorperative and Consumerism Ministry has appointed more than 200 officers tasked to monitor prices of goods and services in the state but the number is insufficient as Sabah is very big.

“So I would like to call on CAPS members to help the government by reporting any cases of indiscriminate price increase so that we can take action against the perpetrators,” she said.

So far, more than 300 entrepreneurs across Sabah have been taken to court for committing various trade offences.

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