By Nur Fadhilah Muhammad
"Every cloud has its silver lining", and this is so even during difficult and trying times such as the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected lives and businesses around the world, Malaysia not excepting.
For instance, footfall in traditional brick-and-mortar retail outlets has dropped dramatically since the imposition of the 1st Movement Control Order (MCO) in March last year. And the situation has not been made better by the introduction of the 2nd MCO in January this year and with the 3rd MCO earlier this month.
According to The Edge Markets in January this year, the Malaysia Shopping Mall Association (PPK) estimates that mall vacancies will reach 20% to 30% by Q2 2021.
However, despite the decline in physical retail, some relief has been seen in the rise of online retail as consumers turn to e-commerce platforms for their purchases, in particular for electrical and electronic (E&E) products.
This is because as people spend more time at home, they need the necessary devices to facilitate work-from-home (WFH) and home-based learning (HBL) as well as for personal entertainment and everyday living purposes.
During MCO 1.0 in 2020, there was a reported surge in the purchase of household E&E products such as kitchen appliances, fans and air-conditioners. And, as evidenced by a BERNAMA report, e-commerce platform Shopee recorded sales of more than 550,000 units of technology products, such as laptops, smartphones, network components, and audio systems, from 11 to 15 January this year, during the first five days of MCO 2.0.
PLAYING A PART IN SAFEGUARDING CONSUMERS
The increase in online E&E purchases is a sign of a healthy e-commerce sector, which will go towards helping the economy recover from the effects of the pandemic. However, since some of these devices are shipped from overseas, they might not meet Malaysia's safety and interoperability standards, and this increases the risks of accidents.
In 2020, there were 45 electrical accidents cases recorded, according to Suruhanjaya Tenaga (ST - the Energy Commission), of which 28 were fatal and 17 non-fatal. Over the last five years, electrical accidents averaged at around 52 cases a year.
Consumers can protect themselves by checking that the E&E products they purchase online are affixed with the SIRIM-ST label. This is mandatory for 34 categories of electrical products (the majority of which are low-voltage household appliances) and ascertains that the product has been deemed safe to use and operable in Malaysia.
As Malaysia's leading Conformity Assessment Body (CAB), SIRIM QAS International - a wholly-owned subsidiary of SIRIM Berhad - is a key partner for ST in carrying out testing, inspection and certification (TIC) of E&E products, both manufactured domestically as well as imported from overseas.
Our E&E testing is based on a broad spectrum of Malaysian Standards (MS) and International Standards such as the ISO and IEC. In addition, our laboratories are accredited by the Department of Standards Malaysia to ISO 17025 requirements and recognized under the international IECEE CB Scheme. Therefore, our test reports and certificates are accepted and recognised by participating National Certification Bodies and CB Testing Laboratories in almost 45 countries worldwide.
Also, as stated earlier, there has also been an increase in the online purchase of communications and multimedia products such as smartphones and laptops. Under the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) 1998, such devices need to be certified and labelled with the MCMC Certification Mark or label to ensure their safety and interoperability.
The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) has appointed SIRIM QAS to be the Certifying Agency (CA) that certifies communication and hybrid products. Furthermore, we have also been named as a Cross Border Regulatory Agency (CBRA) by the Royal Malaysian Customs Department (KDRM) for the issuance of import permits for communication and multimedia devices.
ADVOCATING AND ENHANCING AWARENESS
SIRIM QAS's efforts in ensuring safety of E&E products in Malaysia is not just limited to our TIC services alone, but also encompasses advocacy and promotion. This is because it is something we take extremely seriously, and we work closely with ST - the regulator - to educate the public on this topic.
Since 2019, we have run the SIRM-ST Safety Awareness Campaign, which seeks to raise awareness of the importance of having the SIRIM-ST label on E&E products. The latest iteration of this campaign was launched in February this year, and was done in collaboration with ST, the Malaysian Electrical Appliances Distributors Association (MEADA), and the Federation of Malaysian Electrical Appliances Dealers' Association (FOMEDA).
The campaign, which is themed Keselamatan Anda Keutamaan Kami (Your Safety is Our Priority), is particularly focused on education and informing the public against purchasing uncertified E&E products online. Both SIRIM QAS and ST have produced and uploaded awareness videos on our respective social media pages.
In this day and age, we are all reminded to stay safe by adhering to COVID-19 SOPs such as limiting travel and practising social distancing. We at SIRIM QAS would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone to continue to stay safe, not only against COVID but against faulty, dangerous and uncertified electrical and electronic products. To safeguard themselves consumers should download the free SIRIM QAS mobile app, and then key in the details of the product to check if it has received the SIRIM-ST label.
Nur Fadhilah Muhammad is the Chief Executive Officer of SIRIM QAS International.