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Got cheated shopping online in Malaysia? Here are 4 ways to get justice (or a refund)

24 days ago Arjun

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This article is for general informational purposes only and is not meant to be used or construed as legal advice in any manner whatsoever. All articles have been scrutinized by a practicing lawyer to ensure accuracy.

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“SCAM ALERT!” You may have seen Facebook postings which begin with those words, and they usually have the same tune. Someone bought something online for cheap, and they didn’t receive their item.

It’s a frustrating situation to be in, especially because there’s a possibility that you’re left without your item and your money. But fortunately, there are some relatively user-friendly methods to get your money back.

But before we get to those methods, we acknowledge that there are many ways you can shop online, but we’ll only be focusing on the following two types of online shopping:

  • Buying directly from an online platform; like Lazada or Shoppee.
    • you usually can ask for a refund
    • you can bring an action in the small claims court
    • you can make a complaint at the Consumer Affairs Tribunal
    • you can make a police report
  • Buying from an independent seller using a third party site; like on Facebook Marketplace or Mudah
    • you can bring an action in the small claims court
    • you can make a complaint at the Consumer Affairs Tribunal
    • you can make a police report

We’d start with the most straightforward one which is the online platform, and the first thing you need to know is…

 

1. You can get a refund from the online platform

Image from termsfeed

Things are pretty direct when we buy items from online platforms because they have their own terms and conditions. So all we have to do to get our money back is basically follow what’s stated in their terms. For example it may say something like this:

“If Seller has failed to deliver the Goods in accordance with the Contract or within a reasonable time, the Buyer shall, by serving a written notice to the seller, be entitled to demand performance within a specified time thereafter and such specified time shall be no less than 14 days. If the seller fails to do so within the specified time, the Buyer shall be entitled to terminate the Contract and claim a refund in respect of the undelivered Goods.”  –  Sample terms and conditions from an online platfrom

But what if the platform doesn’t honour their terms and conditions?

This is where we go into the other legal options that you can take to get your money back. While chances are likely that established online shopping platforms will honour these policies, the same may not be said for independent sellers advertising their wares on Facebook Marketplace or their own social media pages. 

So, while the options below are more in relation to independent sellers, they can be applicable to online shopping platforms as well.

 

2. Small claims court – RM 5,000

Image created on imgflip

If you’re choosing this option to get your money back, you’d be technically suing the online seller for a breach of contract. This is because, while we may think that contracts are these complicated documents that you sign, it also covers simple buy-and-sell situations. So when you agree to pay the seller money in exchange for the seller to send you the item, it amounts to a contract – if the seller fails to give you the item, he’s breaching the contract.

So you’ll be taking this action in the small claims court, and the court got its name because it only handles claims less than RM 5,000. In addition to that, the court procedures are easy enough for for anyone to use with no lawyer required. We’ve actually covered the procedures to start a case in the small claims court before, and you can click on the link below to find out more.

[READ MORE: How to file a claim in a small claims court]

So once you’ve followed the procedures to start your case, these are the most important things to show the judge:

  • First, you’d have to prove that there’s a contract between you and the seller. You can do this by providing a screenshot of the texts between you and the seller, or a print out of the order confirmation.
  • Secondly, you’d have to prove that the seller didn’t send the item to you. For example by screenshots of you texting the seller asking for your item; or by failure of the seller to show a postage receipt.

Oh and as we’ve mentioned, the small claims court can only hear claims less than RM 5,000. So if your item does cost more than that, you can make a complaint at...

 

3. Consumer Affairs Tribunal – RM 25,000

Image from the Malaysian Consumer Affairs Tribunal

A Consumer Affairs Tribunal (CAT) is kinda similar to a court, but it’s built for the sole purpose of handling disputes between buyers and sellers where the claim is less than RM 25,000

So why would you want to choose this option instead? Well besides the CAT being able to handle claims less than RM 25,000, it has really easy procedures to follow. All you would have to do is fill up the online form here, and pay the RM 5.00 processing fee. After that you may have to send certain documents to seller informing him you’ve made a complaint, and then the CAT will set up a date for the hearing. 

At the CAT there will be someone in charge of your case, and what they’d do is help mediate a settlement between you and the seller. In the event that you and the seller can’t settle it among yourselves, a decision will be given – which may include asking the seller to return your money.

If you’re wondering if you can make a complaint to the CAT if your item costs less than RM 5,000, the answer is YES. In fact, you may prefer this option as the CAT is meant to handle situations like these. Plus compared to the small claims court where you’d actually need to go to court to fill up the form, at the CAT you can just do it on your laptop.

 

4. You can also make a police report

Image created on imgflip

Before we go on, we’d have to emphasise that by making a police report you will not get your money back but you’d get justice.  And you should know, even if you do make a police report, you still have the right to sue the seller or make a complaint at the Consumer Affairs Tribunal.

So one thing we’d have to consider against an online seller, is the fact that he may actually be committing a crime of cheating under Section 415 of the Penal Code. The law basically illustrates that a seller who intended to cheat you from the start and never intended to deliver the item to you, commits a crime. Here’s an example which may help to understand the section:

Ali advertises that he’s selling his phone for RM500

Ali and Muthu agree on the sale, and Muthu sends RM500 to Ali’s account

Ali doesn’t send Muthu the phone

-------- Muthu makes a police report against Ali --------

If it turns out that Ali never intended to sell the phone, and the whole offer was to take Muthu (or anyone else’s) money – Ali is commiting the crime of cheating

If it turns out that Ali actually wanted to sell the phone but changed his mind later – It’s not a crime, but a breach of contract

 

In the latter situation where Ali only breaches the contract, the easiest thing for him to do is to actually return the money. And if that’s the case, that wouldn’t be an issue for you. 

But if Ali doesn’t return the money, how’s the PDRM gonna decide whether the seller intended to cheat you? Well it’s not gonna be easy for them, but what you can do is assist them by providing proof that he has done this to other buyers before, or less likely he texted you saying “HAHAHAHA, you got cheated!”. If however the PDRM can’t do anything because it’s not crime, remember you still may have the right to sue or make a complaint at the CAT.

And we have to emphasise again, if you do make a police report, you might get justice but you may not get your money back.

 

These procedures only work if you know the identity of the seller

Image screenshot from Facebook

So all these methods that we’ve listed will only work if you know the identity of the seller. It is possible that sometimes online sellers may use fake profiles when advertising goods – in such cases without the real name of the seller, it’s difficult to take action. 

In addition to that we may also have to consider the fact that it’s possible to buy items from foreign sellers and foreign platforms (Amazon, Ebay, etc). Similar to above, it’s gonna be close to impossible to take action against them, because they’re out of the jurisdiction of the courts and PDRM.

Nevertheless even if you’re in such circumstances, it’s probably best to make a police report just in case. And as a pre-emptive measure, it’s always prudent to remain careful when online shopping. Thus, it’s best to make sure that the seller has good reviews and his details are available and seems legit. 

Tags:
online shopping
lazada
shopee
mudah
facebook marketplace
cheated
non-delivery
didn't receive item
small claims court
consumer affairs
online refund
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Arjun

I'm so woke I don't sleep


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