Be A Smart Consumer And Save Your Money

By Norshazlina Nor'azman

KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) -- 'Consumer power' has been the catchphrase of late for Malaysians as the cost of living goes up but do the consumers in the country really know and understand of the power at their disposal?

How could the consumers leverage their position in taking on unscrupulous traders who indiscriminately hike the prices of goods and services to make a quick profit?

The deputy president of the Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations (Fomca) Muhammad Sha'ani Abdullah noted that though the traders may have their own justification in raising the prices of food and other items, setting unreasonable prices is totally irresponsible.

Therefore, he said, in facing the slew of escalating prices consumers have two choice; either they become smart consumers or end up as victims of unscrupulous traders.

BOYCOTT THE PREMISES

Consumers have to exercise their powers firstly by differentiating between what is necessity and what is temptation. Secondly they should boycott business premises that set unreasonable prices on their goods and services.

"Consumers have an option to either 'close an eye' and pay the high prices or look for other outlets that offer better prices.

"The consumers have a right to teach a lesson on profiteering traders and ensure that they don't take advantage of the situation. Their collective effort will help in bringing down the prices," he said to Bernama when contacted.

Even if 10 or 20 percent of the consumers join hands in boycotting a unscrupulous trader, it will definitely create an impact on the profit margins forcing them to reduce prices to a reasonable level.

"In fact consumers could share among themselves their experience to identify premises that offer reasonable prices, good service and that does not compromise on quality," he said.

COMPARE PRICES

He added that, enforcement is not an effective measure in dealing with profiteering traders. This is because it takes a long time to collect evidence and take action, and calls from the cooperation of the consumers.

"Consumers can make a report to the authorities so that action could be taken. Yet often we see warnings issued, even if any further action is taken it takes a long time.

"Therefore the best and most effective approach for the long term is that consumers change their own attitude as many are still unaware of their rights, and still think of living beyond their means," he said.

Muhammad Sha'ani noted that consumers too have to make a habit of comparing prices, including glancing at the brochures printed by traders and make use of the vouchers or membership cards to enjoy good discounts.

"However, consumers have to be wary of the offers advertised and buy based on necessity and not on temptation though the price is affordable. Consumers have to keep in check the temptations and buy only what is really necessary," he said.

PRIORITISE YOUR NEEDS

Meanwhile, Malaysian Muslim Consumer Association Secretary General (PPIM) Datuk Dr Maamor Osman noted that as the cost of living rises, consumers have to differentiate between necessity and extravagance.

Consumers too should avoid depending on credit cards in their daily spending to prevent debts from accumulating.

In fact, consumers are encouraged to make an informed decision when making a purchase and avoid impulsive purchases.

"When eating at roadside stalls, a meal could easily cost RM8 and this is considered expensive by most but when drinking at a posh restaurant a cup of coffee costing RM8 is considered cheap by the same people?

"We have unconsciously encouraged ourselves to live in luxury when in fact we can enjoy the same thing at a lower price by cooking and taking home cooked food to the workplace," he said.

AUSTERITY MEASURES

Maamor noted that consumers could change their spending patterns with a first simple step - mix you drinks at home or workplace instead of buying from shop.

"As for example, shops use coffee sachets and charge RM2 for a cuppa. We can save a lot when we buy coffee powder and mix the coffee ourselves.

"Food cooked at home, is cheaper and provides the same level of nutrition," he said.

-- BERNAMA