Sunday, July 3, 2022

E-bidders seeking dream car plate numbers stymied by system glitches

Slow server speeds and payment problems are the top complaints.

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Ever since the government introduced the online vehicle registration number bidding system three years ago, Malaysians have been enthusiastically bidding for the number plates of their choice in what has turned out to be a lasting fad.

But now, part of the zest appears to be dying down, in a trend which industry players attribute not to the changing whims of consumers, but to weaknesses in the system itself.

The e-bidding system, introduced in 2019 under the Road Transport Department (JPJ), saw a steady stream of road users competing for their favourite numbers.

But vehicle registration number dealer Wallace Choy said the interest of bidders had been dampened due to the inability of the JPJeBid website and server to accommodate their numbers.

Choy, of Auto Plate Division, said problem after problem had arisen, causing dissatisfaction among the bidders.

Vehicle registration number dealer Wallace Choy points to different types of car plate numbers on the wall of his shop in Petaling Jaya.

The main issue appears to be the sluggish speed of the JPJeBid server.

“They are charged RM10 for the numbers they want,” he said.

“Imagine if you want to bid for 10 numbers – you would be charged RM100. But then, you can’t even bid.”

The bidding fees are also non-refundable, regardless of whether the bidders succeed in obtaining their dream licence plate numbers.

MalaysiaNow has contacted JPJ for a response to the claims about the systemic weaknesses.

Before the JPJeBid system was introduced, bidding for vehicle registration numbers had to be done manually at JPJ offices.

Interest picked up after the launch of the online system.

Speaking to MalaysiaNow in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Choy said the price of registration numbers had risen correspondingly.

But with the JPJeBid system, he said, even paying for the numbers was difficult.

He said many had complained that they were unable to make payments due to server problems, even though they had placed the highest price.

He spoke of a case in which an individual had bid RM5,080 but the number that he wanted went to another person who bid RM5,000.

“The server was slow and he could not make his payment, so someone else got the number instead,” he said.

An employee at Wallace Choy’s shop works on a car registration number plate, making sure that it meets government specifications.

Choy fears that if the problem is not taken into hand, the government will also suffer losses as disgruntled bidders begin turning their backs on the system.

He said the issues appeared to begin about six months ago, after JPJ updated the JPJeBid application by including a list of the top five bidders with their respective offers.

Before that, he said, there were no problems and bidding had carried on without a hitch.

“Maybe the server is unable to accommodate the high volumes of traffic,” he added. “They should upgrade it so that it can keep up with the current traffic levels.”

Choy also suggested a wider range of payment methods including options such as a special e-wallet to make things easier for bidders.

At the moment, there are only two ways of paying: through debit or credit card.

If a person loses a bid, the value of their bid will float or be held for 14 days for debit card payments and seven for credit cards.

Choy said JPJ should apply for a shorter bid value restriction period to facilitate the process for users.

But despite its apparent weaknesses, he added, the updated JPJeBid system was more transparent than the old system.

Now, each bidder can view the highest number of bids and the minimum number of current bids before the offer closes.

“With the old system, bidders had to just guess their way through,” Choy said.

Vehicle plate number “Malaysia 1” currently holds the record for the highest bid ever made for a single-digit registration number.

It was won in 2019 by corporate entity Aldi International Sdn Bhd, which bid RM1,111,111, breaking the previous record of RM989,000 for registration number “V1”.

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