We have come to an age where consumers are able to obtain the goods they desire online, either through websites, blogs, or even social media itself. While this has made obtaining goods much easier, simpler, and more convenient, it also does have its drawbacks. For example, the National Consumer Complaints Center (“NCCC”) has found that the number of consumers who fell victim to unscrupulous online merchants has been on the rise for the past few years1.
As the goods cannot be physically seen before the consumer buys it, disputes will inevitably arise. So what can an online consumer do? In this article, we will briefly discuss two revenues that a consumer can turn to shall situations such as these arise.
Small Claims Court
The Small Claims Court (or SCC for short) is an alternative avenue where a consumer can raise their grieve ances in the magistrate court2 without a need for a lawyer. The prerequisites for filing a claim in SCC is as follows:
- The amount or value claimed by the consumer must not exceed RM5,000.003; and
- The consumer cannot be represented by a lawyer except in circumstances where the consumer is legally required to do so4. However, it does not prohibit the consumer from seeking advice from a lawyer.
The procedures are as follows:
- Obtain Form 198 from the registrar of the Magistrate Court.
- State the amount and particulars of the claim5.
- Signed/ thumbprint it6 and file 4 copes with the registry of Magistrate Court along with RM10.00 as filing fees7.
- Extract the sealed copies of Form 198 and serve it upon the seller via personal service or by prepaid registered post to the seller’s last known address8.
- The seller who receives a Form 198 will then have to file their defense and counterclaim (if any) under Form 199 within 14 days upon receiving the claim9 to dispute the claim and if there is a counterclaim, the consumer may file a defense to the counterclaim under Form 20010. The signage and service are similar to those of Form 19811.
- The Magistrate Court will then proceed to hear the matter accordingly.
Tribunal for Consumer Claims Malaysia
The Tribunal for Consumer Claims Malaysia (or Tribunal for short) is an independent body established under Section 85 of the Consumer Protection Act12 to provide for an alternative channel for consumers to file a claim against errant sellers in a convenient, inexpensive and speedy manner.
The Tribunal is empowered by the Act to hear and determine a myriad of claims, as long as the claim is filed within three years from the dispute and does not exceed RM25,000.0013. For example, the Tribunal can hear claims where14:
- The consumer is misled or deceived in relation to the nature, manufacturing process, characteristics, suitability for a purpose, quality and quantity of the goods;
- The seller falsely represented their goods;
- The consumer is misled as to the price at which the goods are available;
- The seller offering free gift, prize, or item with the intention of not providing it according to what was offered;
- The consumer is led to believe that the goods offered are limited;
- The goods offered were not of acceptable quality, fit for the purpose the goods were offered, reasonable price, etc.;
- The sellers accepting payment for goods without the intention to supply the goods or supply different goods from what was offered; and
- The seller supply or offer any goods which do not comply with the safety standards of the said goods.
However, the Tribunal is not empowered15 to hear claims:
- For the recovery of land or any issues that deal with land matters;
- That concerns wills, good wills, choices in action, trade secret, or intellectual property;
- That concerns aviation services as defined in the Malaysian Aviation Commission Act16; and
- That is determined by other tribunals.
What to know more about how to file a complaint? Kindly log on to the Tribunal’s website, where they will provide you with a step-to-step guide on how to file and register a consumer complaint.
A final word of advice- while it may seem like a hassle, always keep the receipts, records, and all the evidence of your online purchase with you, at least until you receive your goods. That way shall a dispute arise, you would have ample evidence to back-up your claim.
2. Order 93 Rule 1(1), Rules of Court 2012.
3. Order 93 Rule 2, Ibid.
4. Order 93 Rule 7, Ibid.
5. Order 93 Rule 3(2), Ibid.
6. Order 93 Rule 4(1), Ibid.
7. Order 93, Rule 5(1), Ibid.
8. Order 93 Rule 5(2), Ibid.
9. Order 93 Rule 6(1), Ibid.
10. Order 93 Rule 6(5), Ibid.
11. Order 93 Rule (3) – (4), Ibid.
13. Section 98 (1), Consumer Protection Act 1999.
15. Section 99 (1), Consumer Protection Act 1999.
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