Alternative to going to court

The Tribunal offers an inexpensive way to settle disputes

PETALING JAYA: From claiming for a screw worth less than RM1 to faulty home repairs costing tens of thousands of ringgit, Malaysians are exercising their rights as consumers.

Claims worth more than RM190.28mil in 26,397 cases were filed at the Tribunal for Consumer Claims Malaysia (TTPM), which operates under the Domestic Trade and Cost of Living Ministry, from 2019 to May 2023. Here, a total award worth RM59.2mil was issued by the tribunal.

TTPM chairman Hamidun Abdul Fatah said the tribunal handled claims for small purchases such as a commuter ticket worth RM1.80 and a screw worth less than RM1.

He said the tribunal plays the role of an alternative dispute resolution body to the civil courts for consumers to file claims for recovery for purchases of goods and services worth up to RM50,000.

Its jurisdiction is limited to a claim based on a cause of action that accrued within three years, he said.

“The tribunal hears and determines claims in an independent and fair manner.

“This is an alternative so that the public does not have to go to the courts. It is also a way for people to resolve disputes in a convenient, fast and cheap way,” said Hamidun in an interview.

He said consumers, who feel their rights have been violated, can always take their cases to the tribunal.

Compared to civil courts, he said claimants in the tribunal only have to pay a RM5 fee.

“If they go to the civil courts, they have to appoint a lawyer and pay legal fees and sometimes, the value of the claims is too small to proceed, leading to disgruntled consumers.

“At the tribunal, all parties are not allowed to be represented by lawyers during the hearing, except for large companies that have in-house legal advisors.

“This provides a new line of hope for consumers to access a justice system that is quick and easy,” he said.

He reminded that the same claim cannot be filed in the same tribunal and civil courts.

Before the tribunal hearing, Hamidun said that the involved parties must gather all supporting evidence such as written agreements, payment receipts and all communication trails regarding the claim.

“Keep all receipts, whether online or physical, any written agreements and communication trails, such as messages.

“The respective president of the tribunal will make a decision and issue an award based on an assessment of the facts and the law,” he said.

Those who fail to comply with an award within 14 days are liable to a fine not exceeding RM10,000 or a maximum of two years’ imprisonment or both upon conviction, Hamidun said.

He added that those who are dissatisfied with the award and want to dispute it can apply to the High Court for a judicial review.

“The role of the president is to hear the nature of the disputes and encourage those involved to negotiate; they can settle the claim outside the hearing,” he said.

Hamidun said every case should be resolved within 60 days from the date of the first hearing where possible.

He said, while most of the cases can be settled within the timeline, some complex ones like house renovations require more time because they involve assessment documents from structural report and quality surveyors.

“The rest of justice is injustice but at the same time, the most important thing is that both parties, which are consumers and businesses, will be able to present their cases and be given an equal chance in the tribunal,” he added.

Consumers can also file claims online through https://ttpm@kpdnhep.gov.my.


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