KUALA LUMPUR, May 29 — Consumer and safety groups have renewed their calls for authorities to ban seat belt dummy buckles, amid continued sales in do-it-yourself (DIY) stores and online shopping platforms despite them raising the issue since 2020.

The groups reiterated to Malay Mail that the devices — which are used to disarm the alarm that alerts drivers or passengers if they do not wear seat belts — severely threaten road safety.

Cherrie Lim Bee Choo, the president of the Automotive Accessories Traders Association of Malaysia, said its members have already phased out the sales of the dummy buckles, but said they do not have control over online sellers.

“Most of these items are coming from overseas, China, and have been in the market for a decade. We feel it should be on the ban list,” she said when contacted.

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Lim also highlighted the need for consumer awareness, noting that some consumers might buy these dummy buckles without understanding their risks.

“I think sometimes the consumer buys this dummy buckle not knowing what it actually does, so we have to raise some awareness on this as well. Try to encourage people to learn about the product, then they’ll realise how dangerous it is for them, their families, and the public’s safety,” she added.

A recent survey conducted by the CAP indicates that these dummy buckles are readily available on various shopping platforms, particularly at car accessories stores, and are priced as low as RM3 to RM8.
A recent survey conducted by the CAP indicates that these dummy buckles are readily available on various shopping platforms, particularly at car accessories stores, and are priced as low as RM3 to RM8.

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The renewed call came with the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP), which on May 21 raised the issue by noting that the initial use for these dummy buckles was to provide extra length for plus-sized individuals.

However, its president Mohideen Abdul Kader noted that they have instead been abused, and warned that using the devices in such a way can cause the airbag system to malfunction.

“A recent survey conducted by the CAP indicates that these dummy buckles are readily available on various shopping platforms, particularly at car accessories stores, and are priced as low as RM3 to RM8.

“It’s essential to underscore the significance of seatbelts as one of the most crucial safety innovations in road safety, particularly in reducing fatalities and serious injuries, with an almost 50 per cent reduction in such incidents during frontal vehicle collisions for both drivers and front passengers,” Mohideen said in the statement.

Prof Wong Shaw Voon, the chairman of the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (Miros), echoed Mohideen’s sentiments. He dismissed the excuse of being plus-sized, stating: “I don’t think that’s the case. If you’re too big to enter the car, then you shouldn’t drive. This is just an excuse.”

“Seat belts and car seats are very well designed. Since 2011, cars have had seat belt reminders to make them mandatory to wear, especially for the driver because without a driver the car cannot move,” Wong told Malay Mail.

Wong emphasised the importance of using safety features as designed, highlighting how manufacturers have even gone to introduce seat belt reminders for the front and back passenger seats.

“So please ask yourselves why pay so much for a car with all the safety features to protect you and your loved ones, but you decide to bypass it all? Not only that, you’re taking risks with your warranty, etc, in case something goes wrong,” he said.

Consumer and safety groups groups reiterated to Malay Mail that the devices — which are used to disarm the alarm that alerts drivers or passengers if they do not wear seat belts — severely threaten road safety.
Consumer and safety groups groups reiterated to Malay Mail that the devices — which are used to disarm the alarm that alerts drivers or passengers if they do not wear seat belts — severely threaten road safety.

How prevalent are the sales of dummy buckles?

According to Lim, it is difficult to ascertain how many dummy belt buckles are being sold, but she estimated it to be around 3,000 units per year. While most of these products are sold online, some can easily be found in DIY and accessory stores in Malaysia.

Malay Mail’s investigation found very few of them being sold in car accessory stores, and only a limited number in some DIY stores. However, online platforms like Shopee and Lazada offer numerous varieties, including branded buckles from Mercedes Benz, BMW, Porsche, Audi, and even Tesla, sold at prices ranging from RM8 to RM19.

Some were even selling just a piece of metal to insert into the belt buckle so it stays hidden. Those went for slightly above RM1 and came with an instructional video and guide on how to use it.

The descriptions of these dummy buckles are often brazen, openly stating that they muffle the alarm. Examples include “Mini hidden safety belt buckle clip muffler alarm silencer.” These products are also available for local car brands like Perodua, Toyota, Honda, and Proton.

Others use descriptions such as “Extension buckle eliminates sound buckle” or “Seat belts stop plug — hidden insert — vehicle seat belt buckle clip” to openly state how their devices are meant to stop the car alarm.

Shopee and Lazada have not responded to Malay Mail’s request for comments at the time of writing.

At the DIY stores, they were merely sold at the counters with at most two options. Most of them were for non-luxury cars and were being sold for around RM7 per unit.

When speaking to the storekeepers, they mentioned that dummy buckles were not actually popular items and they were unsure of how many had been sold in the past month. When asked if they would continue to sell them, they expressed uncertainty.

At the DIY stores, they were merely sold at the counters with at most two options. Most of them were for non-luxury cars and were being sold for around RM7 per unit. — Picture by Hari Anggara
At the DIY stores, they were merely sold at the counters with at most two options. Most of them were for non-luxury cars and were being sold for around RM7 per unit. — Picture by Hari Anggara

‘Legality’ of dummy buckles remains grey area

Saravanan Thambirajah, the chief executive of the Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations (Fomca), highlighted the challenges of regulating online sales.

“If we try to engage the enforcement officers to look into individual packages, it’ll be difficult. People can easily declare it’s something else inside, but in reality, it could be this. Hence we should ban this sale outright, and we have actually done this before.

“Remember in the past, these water gel jelly beads or blue water beads for vases? It was very popular. Everyone was buying it, fed it some water, watched it plump up, then used it as decoration. Later on, we found out these balls were toxic and dangerous if a child accidentally consumed them, and we banned them outright. I hope we can do the same here for these dummy belt buckles,” he said.

Wong pointed out that the dummy buckles not only serve no safety function, but instead can make the cars faulty.

“If you bypass your alarms and safety features, you may end up using more resources and cash in case of an electrical malfunction. The airbag also doesn’t work independently; it’s meant to be used in tandem with the seatbelt in the Supplemental Restraint System, which means an automatic passive restraint system consisting of a bag that is designed to inflate upon collision.

“If you trick the system by using this dummy and say it suddenly responds when there’s no crash due to a malfunction, then you are going to get unnecessarily injured,” said Wong.

He further suggested that the traffic police and the Road Transport Department (JPJ) should start issuing fines to road users using these dummy buckles and urged online platforms to stop selling them.

In 2020, a Miros survey of 326 motorists revealed that 39, or 12 per cent, used dummy seat belt buckles. Wong noted an increase in usage over the years and implored all motorists to buckle up, be considerate of others, and prioritise their health and family safety.

In Malaysia, both drivers and passengers of vehicles are required by law to wear seatbelts, whether seated in the front or rear. Failure to comply with this regulation can result in fines of up to RM2,000, imprisonment for a maximum of one year, or both.

This strict enforcement, initiated since January 1, 2009, stems from the Motor Vehicles Rules (Seatbelt) (2008 Amendment), extending the mandate to include rear passengers. However, certain exemptions apply, such as individuals excused for health reasons by two registered medical practitioners, those granted exemption by the minister as well as pregnant women.