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Roundtable Consumerism In Post-Pandemic Era

8 December 2020 @ Senate Hall IIUM

Organized by:

Kulliyah of Economics and Management Sciences

Jufitri Joha

President Majlis Belia Malaysia (MBM)

Introduction / Definition

Consumerism broadly concerns consumption. Specifically, it refers to the excessive over-consumption of consumer goods without regard to the negative impacts to people and the planet (Dauvergne 2008; Princen et al. 2002; Stearns 2006).

Cases in Malaysia

In Malaysia, not many consumers especially young people are aware and know that they have rights in consumerism issues. Hence, Malaysia Youth Council (MBM) is focussing on informally educating young people with civic education including consumer education.

For example, consumers have the right to take legal action against parties who commit certain actions that affect their lives, including the water resource pollution in the Selangor River. The right to file a summons is provided in accordance with the Water Services Industry Act 2006 (Act 655) and the Environmental Quality Act 1974, but the process must go through the court.

Lecturer in International Law, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Associate Prof Dr Salawati Mat Basir, said the existing act was sufficient to protect the rights of consumers affected by the water crisis, but was seen as difficult to take advantage of. This is because the people face constraints to uphold their rights. Among the obstacles are who will be collecting the case information, who is willing to bear the court fees, how will the lawyers be appointed and they must also have a standi locus.

Consumerism in Pandemic

Consumer issues have a direct impact on the cost of living. The prices of a product or service are always seen to be manipulated by the supplier. Often there is a situation where the demand from consumers is high, then the price of a product or service also increases. As long as there is no enforcement, independent suppliers and sellers place high prices. Issues like this that the MBM often fight for through awareness campaigns such as the Skuad Menggerak Pengguna Siswan (SKUADMEPS) program under Special Committee of , Round Table Discussion (RTD) with various ministries, agencies, NGOs and consumers related to consumer education. Not to forget channels like NACCOL or National Action Council on Cost of Living which MBM covers 6 main areas namely utility, transportation, housing, education, foods and e-commerce. NACCOL is coordinated by Ministry of Domestic Affairs and Consumer Affairs (KPDNHEP).

At the beginning of the movement control order (MCO) in March 2020, the price of health protection goods increased. The price of face mask reaches RM100 per box, although it is low quality. Prices of disinfectants are rising in supermarkets.

Not to be missed the hotel sector. Once the MCO allows people to cross the state, you can see for yourself the hotel prices in hotel booking portals such as Trivago, Booking and more, the prices go up sharply.

Consumers have the right to the information required to make the right choice from misleading advertisements and labels as well as a selection of goods and services at reasonable prices as well as satisfactory quality assurance.

Post Pandemic

The experience through the lockdown period to some extent made the community aware of managing their rights as consumers. Besides that, Covid-19 became a blessing in disguise whereby young people learn to reset life, preserve family values, return to agriculture for food security, normalizing gig economy and appreciating a healthy lifestyle and hygiene.

At the beginning of the lockdown period, people went through a ‘period of panic’. People seem to be afraid of hunger, afraid of running out of toilet paper, afraid of running out of gardenia bread and more. Panic buying occurs in purchasing activities whether online or physical purchases. This situation occurs because most Malaysians have never been through a disaster experience.

Over time, people began to realize the importance of managing expenses in disaster situations. No need to panic, but be smart in making choices in spending. This proves that the campaigns made by the government on panic buying for example are effective in making the public aware. Financial literacy including having enough saving for more than 6 months, investment and minimalist lifestyle is a must for our young people.

The lockdown period also shows that the online product and service sales sector is growing rapidly. Online trading activity recorded an increase of 28.9% last April, when the country enforced the Movement Control Order (PKP), starting March 2020.  Despite the chaos that is taking place in our country, there is also implicit wisdom. Governments often encourage citizens to use the applications and services provided in educating the public towards the use of technology as early as possible. To some extent during the MCO period, the people began to realize the existence of various services available to them online.

E-commerce has seen an explosive growth during the appearance of the epidemic around March 2020 and has since spread around the world including Malaysia. Young people do not have any problem to adapt rapidly with this since they are tech savvy and technological junkies. To encourage and stimulate young people to do transaction online, Government has announced RM 100 via E-Belia Programme to be credited to young people age 18 – 20 years including students in university.

The whole new normal has changed the way most business sectors operate. MCO has changed the way consumers demand for goods. Users are more comfortable doing business online because it saves time and more secure. To meet consumer demand, the business sector needed to make a leap from total physical management to online. Traders need to make changes in their business dealings by using the latest technology to stay competitive and need to start using technology in their daily business.

Clear information and terms must be used properly so that customers know what they will get, the price offered and the advantages of the product. Recently there was an issue due to the use of the term Cash On Delivery (COD). According to the E-Niaga dictionary (businessdictionary.com) COD is a cash payment that must be paid by the user during the delivery of goods that is the price of goods including service charges (if any). For users familiar with the term COD means no additional charges. Lately it has been found that most merchants use the terms COD + shipping charges which can confuse customers. The issue exists because most customers refuse to pay extra for the COD term. Therefore, it is recommended that traders use the term Cash with Delivery Charge (CDC) by placing the price of goods and delivery charges as the following example.

Meaning the customer will pay RM11.00 in cash during the delivery of murtabak in front of the house in the Cheras area. This information is more transparent and users are aware of the additional charges. If traders still want to use COD they can make advertisements as follows which is the tastiest murtabak in KL, COD 12. It means customers will pay RM12.00 in cash during delivery of murtabak in front of the house in Cheras area without any additional charges. Business with good marketing strategies can make your business the main choice of consumers. Your business can also grow exponentially and can be adapted to the current situation. Make this new norm situation into an opportunity and space that traders need to take to continue their business with the help of computer technology.

Dated : 8th December 2020

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