KUALA LUMPUR: Helpless victims of botched beauty procedures have turned to various organisations to help them seek justice.MCA Public Services and Complaints Department head Datuk Seri Michael Chong has been one of those actively playing a role to save the victims, mostly women, not only from financial ruin but also emotional trauma for almost 30 years.He said many women came to his office seeking help after undergoing bad procedures, mostly leaving them penniless and disfigured, either temporarily or permanently.Chong said since 2017, 10 women had lost more than RM2 million on these treatments.“These 10 women spent a total of RM2,367,998.73, thinking these procedures would make them beautiful. The complaints are made against beauty and slimming centres, skin specialist and reflexology centres,” he said.

He said some of the centres involved were well known and regarded as among “the credible ones”.He said many of the cases received were from women who felt those who were supposed to “beautify” them did a bad job. They were prepared to go to court.However, Chong said it was difficult to catch these perpetrators and prove them wrong due to a lack of evidence and the laws in place.Chong said there were three types of cases he has come across over the past decade.The first were victims seeking treatment at aesthetic clinics run by qualified doctors, but the procedures were not done by the doctors themselves. Instead, the procedures were done by their assistants or staff with no medical background or training.

The second type were beauty and spa centres where the beauticians themselves performed the invasive procedures. Chong said not only were they unqualified or medically untrained, their facilities were also a danger and prone to infection as they were unlikely to be sterilised or able to meet the Health Ministry’s safety standards.The final and most dangerous category, Chong said, involved those who did “house calls” or carried out the procedures at hotel rooms. Those doing this were regular people with no medical background or qualifications at all. He said these were usually recommended by friends and family who had previously engaged their services.

The second and third categories, he said, were usually done either by locals or foreigners, mostly from Taiwan, South Korea or China, posing as doctors or referring to themselves as “aesthetic experts”.“They are all illegal and there is no such thing as an aesthetic expert. You are either qualified or not, that is all. Even if they are real doctors from Taiwan or South Korea, they need to be registered and recognised by the Malaysian Medical Council, which they definitely are not”Chong said the first thing they did when people came to his department for such cases was to lodge reports with the Health Ministry, the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry and police.However, when the authorities paid a visit to these places, the shops would be closed and the perpetrators gone.“How are you supposed to look for them? The chances of catching these people are slim, and we realised the only way to address this is to shame them.

“Shame the beauticians, shame the centres so that nobody goes there and in return, we hope they sue for defamation so we can fight them back... but so far, this has not happened.”Chong said these women were not only left emotionally traumatised, but also physically scarred.He said they were unable to face people, adding that their daily lives were affected as they were unable to go to work.Chong advised people to seek treatment from qualified plastic surgeons and medical personnel.“There are so many good and qualified doctors in Malaysia. Go to legal practitioners, Google and check their backgrounds and ensure they are registered with the Health Ministry and Malaysian Medical Council.”

National Consumer Complaints Centre (NCCC) Senior manager (legal and policy) Shabana Naseer Ahmad said from 2015 to 2017, NCCC received 6,925 complaints against wellness and aesthetic centres.“In 2015, there were 1,848 complaints; 2016 had 2,197 and in 2017 it increased to 2,880. These included wellness and aesthetic centres,” she said.She said victims were usually incapable of bringing the matter to court as it would cost them time and money.The next best thing for them, she said, was to lodge a report with the police and the Health Ministry, and approach NCCC for consumer rights awareness.However, she said, once the complaint came to them and they carried out the due process, it took “forever” to get answers and the correct information from the authorities.“To even check whether the person who carried out the procedures on the victims is a real or bogus doctor takes months for the Health Ministry to respond.

“If the person is a real doctor, we would fight for their licence to be reviewed and if the person is a non-medical practitioner, which is even worse, we hope action can be taken against them.“However, from experience, even if the case could actually lead to fatality, somewhere, something is still lacking,” she said, adding that these centres were providing illegal treatments, such as skin whitening and vitamin C drips, thread lifts and even surgeries.She urged the government to be more proactive.Shabana said NCCC’s main duty was protecting consumer welfare. Although it has no enforcement powers, when a complaint is made, it would try to fill the gaps and advise on the next course of action.“People prefer to come to the association than the police or the courts as the latter is time-consuming and expensive. When we deal with the company, we are the mediator trying to resolve the issue between the two parties.”

These companies, she said, would usually offer a reimbursement to the victim. However, she said that by “paying off”, the problem would not correct the victim’s physical appearance and would also subject future customers to dangers as well.“More action is needed. It is time to broaden the authorities’ jurisdiction and have heftier punishments for those playing with people’s lives.”