Malaysia hires housewives, students to nab overcharging retailers

Business Materials 25 September 2008 08:46 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - Malaysia has enlisted 2,000 housewives and students to go undercover to unmask traders and retailers who charge exorbitant prices for their goods and services, news reports said Thursday.

The government has imposed price controls on 17 items, and traders caught selling those goods for more than the stipulated ceiling would be fined.

"A kilo of red chillies is priced at 10 ringgit [3 dollars], and if they sell it for more, we will issue a maximum fine of 7,500 ringgit per offence," Mohamad Roslan Mahayudin, director general at the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs, was quoted as saying by the Star daily.

Malaysians are currently facing a decades-high inflation rate of 8.5 per cent. To control prices, the government instituted the price controls on such goods as chicken, other meats, eggs, grated coconut and imported cabbage.

On Thursday, the government also cut the pump prices of petrol and diesel by 4 per cent to 2.45 ringgit and 2.40 ringgit a litre, respectively.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced the price cut, saying it would ease the people's burden ahead of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr.

The retail spies, who were offered a monthly allowance of 1,500 ringgit, are to report on errant traders to Mohamad Roslan's ministry.

The undercover agents, who responded to an advertisement in a local newspaper, were chosen in March.

Housewives and university students would be more likely to detect overcharging because they usually work on a shoestring budget, Mohamad Roslan