Outcry over fake phones

Victims would only realise that the mobile phone was an imitation after the purchase.

KUALA LUMPUR - Student Dan Lee could not believe his luck when he found a brand new smartphone selling at half of its usual RM1,500 (S$590) price tag at a small mobile phone shop in one of the shopping malls here.

When he tried to set up his bargain buy at home, however, he encountered many problems - the memory became full after he installed his fifth programme and when he tried to register the phone online, he got a message that it was already registered.

"Everything worked fine when I tried out the phone at the shop. Then I noticed the manual was in Spanish. When I went back, the guy refused to give me back my money. Beware of rip-offs," he warned on an online tech forum.

According to the National Consumer Complaints Centre (NCCC), Lee was one of many Malaysians duped into buying fake gadgets lured by their ridiculously slashed prices last year.

Fake mobile phones, laptops and tablets topped the list of product complaints received in 2013 by the consumer rights watchdog.

Gadgets made up the bulk of NCCC's general products and services category, which recorded 7,652 complaints at an estimated potential cost of RM12.6 million (S$5 million).

One reason for the growing number of fake or poor quality products in the local market was the high demand for cheap gadgets, especially smartphones, said NCCC legal executive Santhosh Kannan at the launch of the watchdog's annual report recently.

Another common complaint about gadgets was the hidden costs in their repairs, even for those still under warranty.

Telecommunication services registered the second highest number of complaints at 6,404, followed by online retail at 5,763, automobiles at 4,915 and travel-and-leisure related services at 2,313.

Automobile "problems" recorded the highest value in losses at RM22 million (S$9 million), compared to RM9 million (S$4 million) in 2012.

NCCC chairman Datuk Dr Marimuthu Nadason urged consumers to continue to lodge their complaints with the NCCC to provide the watchdog with the evidence to push for improvements in consumer protection involving related policies and legislation.

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