PETALING JAYA: Ideally, water should be served free of charge at eateries. However, if an eatery chooses to bill a customer for a glass of water, it should not be more than 30 sen.
That is the consensus reached between consumer groups and an association of restaurant operators.
They were commenting on a recent announcement that the government is cracking down on high-end restaurants, fast food outlets, franchises and eateries, as well as stalls across the country, that charge RM1 or more for a glass of water.
Deputy Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Datuk Rosol Wahid said notices have been issued to 84 food and beverage outlet operators.
As of yesterday, Kelantan accounted for 14 of the offenders, the highest in the country.
The other states where overcharging for water have also been recorded are Selangor (12), Sabah (eight), Sarawak (eight), Johor (eight), Pahang (seven), Terengganu (six), Kuala Lumpur (five), Malacca (four), Labuan (three), Penang (three), Perlis (two), Perak (two) and Negri Sembilan (two).
Rosol said the notices, issued through Ops Catut 8.0 (Plain Water) that started last Wednesday, was in response to complaints from the public.
“Those that have received notices have up to five working days to come up with an explanation for the ministry. If they fail to respond, action can be taken against them in accordance with the Price Control and Anti-Profiteering Act 2011,” he said.
Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca) chief executive officer Saravanan Thambirajah told theSun that charging RM1 for a glass of plain water is simply not justifiable.
“The water tariff in Malaysia is already very low, so there is no reason for eateries to charge such an exorbitant price.”
He said the Covid-19 pandemic should not be an excuse for businesses to increase prices of goods and services as this will distort the market.
“Any increase must be based on supply and demand, which should not apply to a basic necessity such as water,” he added.
In comparison, eateries in countries such as England and Wales are required by law to provide free potable water to customers upon request.
Saravanan said it would be ideal for eateries to serve water for free, and businesses should not see this as a cost but rather a marketing strategy to entice customers.
“But it is understandable that eateries in Malaysia may be forced to charge for plain water.
“Here, the water has to be filtered and boiled before it is served, unlike in England where one can drink straight from the tap,” he said.
Consumers Association of Penang vice-president Fathima Mohd Idris said businesses should serve water for free, but customers should play their role by not wasting it.
Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association president Datuk Jawahar Ali Taib Khan said the service should not be free either.
“It is unfair to charge RM1 just for plain water.
“However, there are services attached to it that makes it reasonable to charge 20 sen to 30 sen,” Jawahar said.