KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia is better off without a government if those in power are unable to protect the interests of the rakyat, said a consumer rights activist, as public backlash continues to mount against e-hailing service Grab over its soaring fares.

Malaysian Muslim Consumers’ Association chief activist Datuk Nadzim Johan said that while he agrees with the general concept of a free market, this would be rendered pointless if the prices of goods and services continued to surge.

He said it is during times like this that government intervention is extremely needed, particularly as inflation continues to take its toll on the public amid the country’s transition into endemicity.

“A free market is supposed to ensure prices remain competitive among all players. But this is not happening. Grab fares are soaring,” he told The Vibes today.

“When the situation is out of control like it is today, then it is only right for the government to act. The whole point of having a minister and a government is to intervene when necessary. Otherwise, it is better not to have one.

“If they keep on harping on the free market, then what’s the point of a government? This is why I am baffled. It seems they are taking the easy way out. If this is the case, we don’t need a minister.”

Nadzim was commenting on a statement from Transport Minister Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong this morning that said e-hailing fares will remain unregulated, despite overwhelming public dissatisfaction over the issue of late.

Wee said operators are permitted to set their own fare structures and terms of services with their consumers in a free market.

He also attributed the fare surge to a supply-and-demand imbalance and high traffic volume, as well as a decline in registered drivers compared to the pre-pandemic period.

In recent weeks, there have been numerous complaints from the public claiming that Grab fares have almost doubled even during regular hours, with checks conducted by The Vibes also showing that charges were significantly higher even compared to other less popular options like MyCar and AirAsia ride.

An industry insider had suggested that the newer services could be subsidising the fares to drive up their number of users, hence the lower fares.

Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations deputy president Mohd Yusof Abdul Rahman said that the approach taken by the government (not to regulate fares) is the right one, as this would encourage competition and ultimately ensure better prices for the public.

Asked why fares charged by Grab are then much higher than its competitors, Yusof said this could be due to its current dominance of the market.

“Regardless, I believe an open market will lead to healthy competition. Although Grab is perceived to be monopolising the industry, more players can enter and compete on the fares,” he said.

He also suggested users try out alternative services if they felt Grab prices are unreasonable, noting the abundance of options available in the market today.

According to Wee, there are presently 21 licensed e-hailing services operating nationwide.

“The consumers have a choice. If you feel taxi fares are cheaper, then go for it. There are also so many different e-hailing services. So make your own comparison,” he said. – The Vibes, May 24, 2022

Article by: The Vibes