Why no action against ‘arrogant’ AirAsia?
The government is not interested in protecting its citizens from profiteering private enterprises such as AirAsia, claims a consumer activist.KUALA LUMPUR: There is “no political will” in Malaysia to safeguard the rights of consumers against “tricksters” such as AirAsia which thrived on false advertising, unlike in Australia, says consumer rights activist Jacob George.
George, who is the Consumer Association of Subang and Shah Alam (Cassa) president, said just as in Australia, he has been receiving complaints about discrepancies in Air Asia’s actual airfares and its published rates since 2009 but has received no support in his bid for consumer justice.
“It’s become a waste of time to do this (complaining to the government) because nothing gets done.
“We have received many complaints about AirAsia’ fares and hidden costs. We’ve lodged complaints with the Transport Ministry.
“We’ve even met the minister himself several times, and each time, he’s told us to send a memo and we did but until now there is no response,” George told FMT.
Fed up with banging on the doors of the Transport Ministry, George took the complaints of false advertising to the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry and here too he was dismissed.
“We have repeatedly brought this up with the Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry, but nothing has been done to address the issue.
“We always get the standard response: ‘We’ll look into the problem.’
“But they never do (look into the problem).
“I am actually very glad that the Australians said something about it and decided to take some action.
“It didn’t happen in Malaysia because there is no political will (to safeguard consumers) here,” he said referring to a case filed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) against AirAsia.
The ACCC is a consumer watchdog in Australia. Last week, it filed a suit in Melbourne against AirAsia for alleged false advertising.
The suit was filed the same day AirAsia launched its A$99 (RM319) one-way fare to Sydney from Kuala Lumpur.
ACCC said that “businesses that choose to advertise a part of the price of a particular product or service must also prominently specify a single total price” and noted that some fares sold on AirAsia’s website did not display prices inclusive of all taxes, duties, fees and other charges.
The ACCC is seeking both penalties and orders for the airline to issue corrective notices on its website.
The airline is scheduled to face the ACCC in court on March 2.
AirAsia, on its part, has blamed the situation, as always, on “technical glitches” and has announced that it has taken “corrective action” to resolve the complaints.
According to George, as in the case of Australia, the most common consumer complaints in Malaysia were about camouflaged charges.
He said that while AirAsia is supposed to be a low-cost carrier, there are also many hidden costs. These include travel insurance, seating choice and also luggage fees apart from the mandatory taxes, fuel surcharge and passenger service fee.
He cited a Singapore flight which was advertised as RM14 one way (on Feb 2) but in reality it cost RM147. The breakdown cost included airport taxes/levy (both ways), fuel surcharge (both ways), passenger service fee and passenger security fee.
AirAsia not compassionate
Said George: “There is so much of false representation (in the AirAsia advertising).
“The thing that is very disappointing is that the Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry will go into supermarkets and verify the prices of the goods.
“Why aren’t they doing the same with AirAsia? There are so many questions that need to be asked…”
George added that AirAsia has been trying to contain this, but the fiasco with the Australian situation has got it running around like a headless chicken.
“AirAsia is arrogant… It isn’t very compassionate when it comes to genuine reasons concerning people,” he said, adding that in Malaysia “a problem has to reach international proportions before something is done about it”.
“What is proven is the Australian government is taking care of its people.”