The motorcars industry has made its way to the top for the highest number of complaints received by the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) in 2019. According to a press release, the industry saw 1,683 complaints filed, out of the 14,867 complaints CASE received in 2019. This is followed by the beauty industry which accounted for 1,598 cases filed.
The beauty industry saw the most number of cases in 2018, and had a decrease in 231 cases over the year. Other industries that saw high number of complaints over the year include contractors, electrical and electronics, furniture, telecommunications, travel, maid agencies, education, and F&B.
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The number of complaints filed against the motorcars industry constitutes 11.3% of total complaints received. 42% of the complaints against the industry were in relation to defective goods, with approximately two-thirds involving pre-owned motorcars. Under Part Three of the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act (CPFTA), colloquially known as the Lemon Law, if a repair or replacement is not possible or if the same cannot be done within a reasonable time and without causing significant inconvenience to the consumer, the customer can request for a reduction in amount to be paid for the non-conforming good or to rescind the contract.
To address complaints on defective pre-owned motorcars, CASE also introduced the Standard and Functional Evaluation (SAFE) Checklist in 2017, to guide consumers on the checks they should perform and to encourage them to send the pre-owned car for independent evaluation before they make the purchase. CASE said it intends to step up its efforts to engage consumers and industry stakeholders to increase the adoption of the SAFE Checklist. This would help reduce disputes between consumers and car dealers.
The beauty industry, which saw the second highest number of complaints reported, made up 10.8% of total complaints received by CASE. CASE added the approximately one-third of the complaints involved salespersons taking advantage of consumers by exerting undue pressure or influence. Under the Second Schedule Part One of the CPFTA, this is deemed as an unfair practice. Consumers have the right to seek recourse against retailers under such a circumstance. In response, CASE issued an advisory in July 2019 to alert consumers to aggressive pressure sales tactics used by the beauty industry. It also reminded consumers who do not wish to enter into a purchase transaction of their right to decline and walk away.
Over the past year, CASE received at least 427 complaints regarding the loss of consumer prepayments due to the sudden and unexpected closures of businesses, with an estimated SG$2.37 million in losses. The bulk of these losses came from the motorcars, beauty, renovation contractors, bridal, and fitness club industries. In particular, CASE received 33 complaints regarding the sudden closure of at least 15 motorcar dealers, and/or the non-transfer of car ownership by these dealers. The total amount of prepayment losses suffered by these consumers is approximately SG$1.15 million. CASE said it will intensify efforts to educate consumers on the risks involved when they make prepayments and how they can protect themselves. Aside from that, CASE will engage the relevant industry stakeholders and governmental agencies to consider targeted prepayment protection measures for the key industries.
Lim Biow Chuan, president of CASE, said in view of the current economic landscape, it is likely that this issue will remain a pressing concern for consumers. Lim also urges consumers to be vigilant and exercise caution when they make advance payments.