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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Don’t make prepaid users wait too long for rebate

While mobile phone users are relieved that the six percent Goods and Services Tax (GST) imposed on their prepaid cards will be returned to them, they are not too happy about having to wait for 24 hours before the amount is credited to them.

Since the introduction of the GST on April 1 last year, prepaid users have been complaining about the six percent tax imposed on their top-ups.

However, the rebate on the GST does not mean that the tax has been abolished for prepaid cards as the rebate is only applicable to the estimated 20 million Malaysians who subscribe to the mobile prepaid plan.

GST will continue to be imposed on the top-ups purchased by foreigners working in Malaysia whose mobile network services are registered under their names.

While the rebate intitiative - brought about by the government’s collaboration with the various telecommunications companies (telcos) - has been welcomed by the public, consumer groups have pointed out to certain shortcomings that need to be overcome.

Rebate’s benefits and weaknesses

Muslim Consumers Association of Malaysia chief activist Nadzim Johan described the rebate as a good move, saying that the prepaid users were being given what duly belonged to them. However, he said, the GST amount should be credited into their prepaid accounts faster as most of them, especially students, wished to activate their various packages immediately.

For example, users who buy a RM10 prepaid card will only have a balance of RM9.43 (less six percent GST), which is insufficient to activate the Internet data plan, and they will have to wait until the GST amount is credited into their account.

“We certainly welcome the rebate but then, we’re not happy that consumers have to wait quite a while for the amount to be credited to them.

“People have been complaining to us (about this)... it may seem trivial to those who have a lot of money but it's not a small matter to those who really need the rebate. This (issue) must be looked into,” he said, when contacted by Bernama.

Speed up rebate payment

Nadzim said the telcos involved should speed up the rebate payment so that users need not wait up to 24 hours to get it.

“And, personally speaking, I feel that telcos should be more magnanimous and extend the rebate to all prepaid users, including foreigners as they, too, are paying for the telco services.

“These telcos seem to be very calculative... they won’t end up losing because they have been earning billions of ringgit in profit all these years and it won’t hurt them to be appreciative of consumers who have been using their services faithfully,” he said.

Nadzim said the services provided by Malaysian telcos were somewhat mediocre when, by right, they should be vying with each other to provide better services to their subscribers.

He also claimed that their call charges were not as low as those offered by other countries like Saudi Arabia.

“Our telcos should improve the quality of their services and look into problems such as dropped calls, limited or absence of coverage in certain areas, poor voice quality and slow Internet service,” he said.

He also hoped that the telcos would continue providing the tax rebate for prepaid customers for the years to come.

When presenting Budget 2016 at the Dewan Rakyat in October last year, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak had announced that the GST rebate for prepaid users would be given from Jan 1 to Dec 31 this year.

According to the tax guidelines, a total of 57 sen will be deducted from every RM10 top-up; RM1.70 from RM30; and RM2.83 from RM50, before the amounts are credited into the users’ prepaid accounts.

Other problems

Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations vice-president Siti Rahayu Zakaria said telcos should make an effort to clarify the GST rebate to their prepaid users as many were confused over how it was implemented.

She also said that there should not have been any issue of users not having enough credit to activate their data plan due to GST deduction because the telcos concerned should have anticipated this problem and taken the necessary measures to ensure that their subscribers were not inconvenienced.

She also urged the authorities to take the necessary steps to ensure that only Malaysian prepaid users were entitled to the rebate.

“It’s possible for foreign workers here to enjoy the rebate if they are using phone services registered under their Malaysian employers or agents. It’s not fair for them (foreigners) to get the six per cent rebate,” she said.

“Hence, MCMC (Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission) should take another look at their enforcement procedures and conditions governing the ownership of prepaid numbers to ensure that foreign workers don’t get the same privilege accorded to Malaysians,” she said.

Consumers’ reaction

Meanwhile, prepaid card user Ahmad Aqbal Lokman, 29, found the GST rebate “not all that practical” mainly because he has to wait for hours for the amount to be credited into his account.

“I think it will be more practical if the six percent GST is abolished altogether (for prepaid mobile phone services)... it will make things less complicated,” he said.

Homemaker Sadaqiah Abdul Rahman, 34, also wished that telcos could expedite crediting the rebate into their prepaid accounts.

“I’m happy to get my money back but waiting for 24 hours is too long... it should be credited (into our account) within half an hour or at the most, one hour (after topping-up),” she added.

- Bernama

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