Image: New York Post / Shutterstock
Every time we log on to social media sites like Facebook or Instagram, we would not miss the word “PM price” or “PM done” (private message done).
Yes, online users use the phrase all the time when they advertise their products and services, especially on social media.
But do you know that under the Malaysian law, it is wrong to use that phrase?
To find out why it's against the law to do so, Rojak Daily
spoke to the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry’s enforcement director, Datuk Mohd Roslan Mahayudin
, who broke down the details for us:
1. Why is using such phrases wrong?
We have already issued ‘warning’ via news reports, to online sellers or any web-based businesses to display the prices of goods sold as well as the products’ information clearly. This is to protect the rights of the customers and to ensure online sellers let people know the price and the product information before a transaction is made.
The law is being enforced after a long time of giving online traders time to adjust. This is important in ensuring the rights of the customers are well-protected and it also enables consumers to make purchasing decisions after getting all the information without any hidden charges. For example, if a person sells a cat, he must also post the price of the cat and no longer use the phrase "PM if interested".
2. How will the enforcement officers trace errant online sellers?
‘PM me, sis’ or ‘Done PM’ are some of the key words that enforcement officers will be able to trace in order to find online sellers who fail to post the prices of their goods and services.
Online seller will now be watched and monitored just like any other conventional sellers and penalties will be imposed if they are found to be in the wrong.
The ministry has no problem with other e-commerce traders such as Zalora or Lazada as they still abide the law.
3. So, what should online sellers post or display?
Under the Consumer Protection Act 1999, they are required to display (on their sites) the following:
- The full prices of the goods or services, including the taxes and transportation or other costs
- Name of the person operating the business or the company and business name
- Business or company registration number
- Contact information such as the email address, telephone number or address of the person running the business
- Description of the main characteristics of the goods or services
- Methods of payment
- Terms and conditions
- Estimated time of delivery
4. What are the penalties that can be imposed on errant online traders?
Those who fail to adhere to the eight rules set by the ministry for online sellers, can be penalised under the Consumer Protection (Electronic Trading Transactions) Regulations 2012:
i. Individual Penalty
For the first offence, a fine not exceeding RM50,000 or imprisonment not exceeding 3 years, or both can be imposed. For the second offense, a fine not exceeding RM100,000 or imprisonment not exceeding 5 years or both can be imposed.
ii. Penalty of Corporation
The first offence carries a fine not more than RM100,000. The second offence carries a fine not more than RM200,000.
Now that we've heard the explanation from the authorities,why do most online sellers use the term ‘PM me’ or ‘PM tepi’ on their sites instead of displaying the prices?
We asked them the reason and here are their answers:
Fong Chai Lee, co-founder of Babywears.com:
“We are aware of such a law. We actually prefer for our customers to purchase directly online as this makes our purchasing process more seamless. However, the 'PM' culture usually starts with the customers asking us to PM and such behaviour has been long present. We have to adapt to their behaviour in order to maximise sales. In fact, PM constitutes approximately 30 to 40% of our sales at the moment. Hence, we have to set up measures to attend to each and every PM that we receive. That said, we are always transparent with our pricing, promotion and business information. We want to make sure that we provide customers with the best online experience possible and not veer any dodgy marketing ploys by purposely masking purchase information from them.”
Deva Mala, founder of Shashandelicakes:
“We usually have no choice but to use the phrase ‘”PM”. We do so because there are some confidential details that customers would like to ask about the purchase. Even though we do not like to take the conversation to private, sometimes, further explanation must be done about a certain product, as customers inquire more details. Sometimes, they are the ones who private message for further details, even though all product description is given.”
Spokesperson of tutus_and_ties_my:
“Our products are all custom-made ones, so prices differ according to ages, designs as well as material and accessories used. So, we cannot place a standard price for everyone as we would need other private information such as sizes, measurement and posting details. We feel that the ministry’s rule can be enforced for some online shops, but on the other hand, it will be difficult to enforce in other online shops due to the nature or type of the business. For instance, some online shops, especially those selling similar things, may not post their prices due to stiff competition. The ministry’s rule can work well with that kind of shops. But custom made is totally different."
Fadli Hadafi, founder of thebakingbachelor:
“Actually, this depends on the types of things that online sellers sell. It depends on whether its a fixed price or custom price. If the things that are sold is suited for fixed price, online sellers will usually post the price. If it is a custom-made item like cakes with requested flavours and preferred designs, the will be price differences. So, that is when online sellers use the phrase “PM tepi” to further discuss the matter in private. How can that be an offence? We don’t understand!”.