“Extra cash?” screeched the Malaysian government. “In this economy?!”
“This will not do! We must stop this!!”
Selling On Facebook & Instagram Now Illegal!
And so, on the 17th of December 2014, the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism ministry declared selling on Facebook and Instagram as illegal. Like all other completely simple transactions made unnecessarily complicated by the Malaysian government, people selling via Facebook and Instagram must first register with the Companies Commission of Malaysia.
The Malaysian Insider reported that deputy minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah was quoted saying, “Under the new Consumer Protection Regulations (Online Commerce Transactions) 2012, online traders must display the name of their business, business/company registration number, email address and telephone number on their Facebook or Instagram.”
This is same regulation that mandates other information such as business address, key features of the product or service, full price, payment methods, terms and conditions and the estimated delivery time to be fully visible. Failure to comply will result in a fine not more than RM50,000, a maximum three years jail or both for the first offence.
The government isn’t doing this to stop consumers from earning extra money, of course. They’re doing this so the government can earn extra money from tax! Just kidding! (Sort of.)
According to a report by Royal Malaysia Police, there were RM96.1 million in losses from 4738 cases of cyber-crimes in 2012. E-Commerce is among the top 3 number of cases in cyber-crime, alongside parcel scam and VOIP-cross border syndicates scams.
Meanwhile, the National Consumer Complaints Center (NCCC) reported receiving 40,560 complaints for 2013 and 41,963 complaints in 2012. NCCC chairman N. Marimuthu said, “In terms of monetary value, complaints related to the automobile sector topped charts once again, raking in RM22,182,476.30 which is a dramatic increase from last year’s total of RM9,544,831.80.”
That’s a lot of complaints involving a lot of money. Enforcing this regulation will help protect the consumers purchasing items through online transactions.
On the other hand, the regulation will be – to put mildly – hard to enforce considering the huge number of online transactions done through Facebook and Instagram. Most purchases are almost impossible to trace, leading to many rage posts over in the Lowyat kopitiam forum following a scam in the Garage Sales section.
Without additional information (such as the ones required by the regulation), the government is not able to respond to the complaints filed through Consumer Claims. Small claims court can only do so much when you provide them with only a username (whose account has since been deleted) on a forum (which nobody has heard of before).
There are, of course, other places on the internet where sellers can list their items. Carousell is a popular Singaporea-based app that is also available in Malaysia. The app lets users buy and sell items straight from their mobile phones. We wouldn’t encourage using the ‘share to Facebook & Instagram’ function due to obvious reasons, however. While we may be partial to Carousell because of the simplified process which lets user list items right after taking a picture, there are plenty of other alternatives as well, such as Mudah and Lowyat’s Garage Sales.
It will only be a matter of time before either of two things happen: 1. All sellers (even those using apps and other websites) will be required to register with the Companies Commissions of Malaysia, which is the governments intention in the first place; Or 2.The government realizes that trying to regulate online transactions is an impossible task.
Personally, I think the latter is more likely to occur since the regulation has been in place since 2012 without any progress on implementation. Malaysians are resourceful and will definitely come up with other ways buy and sell online. As the popular villain in the Marvel movie so aptly put it, “Cut off one head, Two more shall take it’s place. Hail Hydra!”