By : MOHD YUSOF ABDUL RAHMAN,
Chief executive, FomcaPetaling Jaya
WITH reference to the prime minister's remarks on the role and responsibilities of the consumer movement ("Abdullah calls for cheaper goods" -- NST, Oct 16), the Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations wishes to enlighten the public on the efforts of consumer associations.
Fomca provides consumer education, addresses public complaints, conducts research and runs campaigns.Through collaboration with the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry, Fomca has undertaken various programmes in schools that have benefited thousands of students nationwide.Consumer-education programmes are also conducted for rural and urban communities, women groups, youth and university students.Through these programmes, it is envisaged that a new generation of discerning and responsible consumers with a more critical attitude towards consumption will be developed.
In addition, organisations such as the National Consumers Complaints Centre provide free services to consumers to redress and exercise their rights.
The centre received more than 18,000 complaints in 2006 and much more last year.
Fomca recently established a consumer research centre to provide us with evidence-based support to deal with consumer issues and problems.
Most importantly, through collaboration with other like-minded non-governmental organisations, the body is conducting a four-year national campaign to create awareness and educate consumers about global changes, their effects on people's lives and ways to respond to these changes.
Apart from rhetoric, the government has yet to come out with long-term plans to help consumers go through this difficult time.
We have also advocated more effective laws, policies and programmes as well as efficient enforcement of these laws to protect the interests of consumers.
Yet, too often, our requests and suggestions have fallen on deaf ears, and we continue to have weak and ineffective laws and inadequate enforcement.
If the government is mindful about protecting the welfare and rights of consumers, it should focus on strengthening its legislative framework and boosting the capacity of its enforcement to ensure that the laws are enforced.
A strong legal framework and effective enforcement will ensure that "rogue" traders are punished. This will, in turn, harmonise the market force.
Fomca is willing and pleased to advise the PM on matters regarding consumer protection. With limited resources, Fomca and the consumer movement are contributing substantially to consumer empowerment and protection.
It is, therefore, unfair of the government to place the res-ponsibility of consumer protection on the shoulders of consumer organisations, when the government itself is hesitant about protecting the consumers with laws and enforcement.
Essentially, consumer organisations and the civil society movement exist to fill the void of social commitments unfulfilled by the government.
As a non-profit entity, we are driven and motivated by our civil passion to help communities and the society.
Therefore, the government should lend support to non-governmental organisations to continue their service to the public.
New Straits Times, 20 October 2008
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