A Quick Introduction To Consumer Tribunal
What is a consumer tribunal?
The Tribunal for Consumer Claims or the Tribunal Tuntutan Pengguna Malaysia (the “Tribunal”), an independent body established under the Consumer Protection Act (the “Act”) and operates under the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Co-Operatives and Consumerism, is a tribunal that is established to provide an alternate means for consumers to file claims against errant suppliers or sellers in a simple, inexpensive and speedy manner.
Generally, the Tribunal hears and adjudicates:
- Claims by a consumer against a supplier, seller, or trader; or
- Claims in respect of goods or services supplied whereby remedy for specific dispute has not been clearly defined in any existing laws.
There are certain conditions that need to be met before a person can file a claim with the Tribunal, namely:
- The claim should not exceed RM25,000.00 unless the parties involved have agreed in writing to allow the tribunal to hear claims exceeding RM25,000.00 in value; and
- The claim is to be filed within 3 years from the time such claim arose.
The process for filing a claim
- Obtain Form 1 from the Tribunal office, complete the form (make four copies) and file it with the Tribunal office along with a filing fee of RM5.00.
- Upon filing, the forms will be registered, dated, and signed by the Tribunal’s secretary or assistant secretary. The Tribunal seal will be affixed onto the forms.
- Two copies of the sealed Form 1 will be returned to the claimant for service:
- To an individual
- Leave it with the person; or
- Post it in a pre-paid registered letter addressed to the person’s address of service or last known address.
- To a company or firm
- Leave the document with the director, manager, secretary, or other similar officers of the company or proprietor of the firm; or
- Post it in a pre-paid registration letter to any person mentioned above at the registered office of the company or firm or its last known address.
- To an individual
- A respondent who receives such a claim can file a defense and counter-claim (if any) in Form 2, similar to the steps taken in point (1) – (4).
- If the claimant receives a counter-claim, he must file his defense to the counterclaim in Form 3, similar to the steps taken in point (1) – (4).
**At this juncture, it must be noted that the Tribunal does not have jurisdiction to hear:
- Dispute in relation to land matters, including claims on interest and title in land;
- Dispute in relation to wills and probate, goodwill, and personal rights over property, trade secret or intellectual property;
- Dispute in relation to aviation services as defined under the Malaysian Aviation Commission Act;
- Claims that is pending determination by other tribunals; or
- Claims arising from personal injury or death.
What happens during the hearing?
Once the claim is lodged, the secretary or assistant secretary to the Tribunal will issue and serve both the claimant and the respondent a Notice of Hearing in Form 4, which will detail when and where the hearing is to be held. At this juncture, it must be noted that no lawyers can represent any parties in the hearing, instead:
- The parties must represent themselves;
- If the claimant is a minor or a disabled person, he/she may be represented by a next friend or guardian; or
- If the respondent is a company, it may be represented by its full-time paid employee.
During the hearing, parties will adduce evidence and call witnesses to support his/her case.
Once the hearing is done and dusted:
- There will either be an agreed settlement between the parties; or
- An award will be made by the President.
The decision of the tribunal is final and binding, and is enforceable to the same extent as a Magistrate Court order. Anyone who fails to comply with the award/ settlement made within 14 days can be liable to a fine not exceeding RM5,000.00 or to imprisonment not exceeding two years or both.
What happens if a party is not satisfied with the outcome?
The dissatisfied party can file an application for Judicial Review to the High Court for the award to be reconsidered.