Consumer rights and protection laws provide a way for individuals to fight back business malpractices. These laws are framed to hold sellers of various goods and services accountable when they seek to profit either by fraud or by taking advantage of a consumer’s lack of information or bargaining power. All around the globe consumer faces some kind of abusive business practices. To overcome such practices, consumer protection laws are made, varying from each country.
Singapore’s approach to consumer protection is based on promoting fair trading by business and helping consumers to make informed purchasing decisions. To this end, the consumers association of Singapore (CASE) plays a key role in championing consumer education and raising consumer awareness. CASE helps consumers to resolve disputes with businesses through negotiation and mediation.
The Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act (CPFTA)[i] is a law protecting consumer in Singapore. This law does not apply on sales of land and house, employment contracts and pawn broking. It aims to protect consumers from unfair trading practices. CPFTA gives consumer the option to bring action against supplier in court for relief. On 1st March 2004 this law came into effect, and major amendment done on 15th April, 2009. There was a significant increase in the number of errant vendors and unfair trade practices against the consumer which lead in making of this law in Singapore. CPFTA says onus is on supplier[ii] to show it did not commit the unfair practice. The supplier should provide all the important material information and do not mislead the consumer. The court would consider the reasonableness of the actions of the trader. The court would also check that whether the consumer has tried to solve it through mediation.
Under CPFTA, the right to cancel contracts within the cancellation period has been increased from 3 to 5 working days. Suppliers have to pay back the amount within 60 days of cancellation[iii]. CPFTA allows consumers to treat all unsolicited goods as unconditional gifts from suppliers, unless the consumer has knowledge in writing his willingness to accept and pay for such goods and services. There is a cap of $30,000 on the amount of claim for an unfair practice that can be filled under the act. CPFTA majorly talks about lemon law and unfair trade practices.
Lemon law[iv] are American state laws made to help consumers to deal with defective goods within 6 months of the purchase done. Lemon goods fail to meet the standard quality or performance. Lemon law was passed in Singapore’s parliament to increase consumer protection. It is an additional right for the consumers. This law applies to all the goods but services are not covered in it. Under this law consumer can report a defective goods within 6 months of the purchase. Here after, the retailer has to prove that the defect did not exist at the time of delivery. Lemon law covers all general consumer products. It doesn’t apply to houses, land or rental. Second hand goods and vehicles are included but satisfactory quality would take into account their age at the time of delivery and the price paid.
There are few remedies available to the consumer when lemon law is imposed, such as- the consumer can request for repair, replacement[v] of the goods and secondly, consumer can keep the defective goods and request for reduction in price or even refund. But if the cost is very high of the product then repair or replacement by the business is not possible.[vi] Lemon law is applied on car cases mostly. Following examples show when consumers may seek remedies-
- If consumer’s request for repair or replacement is not possible or reasonable, retailer may consider refund or discount.
- Getting a reduction in price for defective goods.
- Clearer rules on burden of proof.
- Goods have to conform to their description and be of satisfactory quality.
- Goods should be ‘fit for purpose’.
- Reasonable expectations of second hand goods.
There are 24 unfair practices listed in 2nd schedule. Unfair practices constitutes the following-
- to do or say anything, or omit to do or say anything, if as a result a consumer might reasonably be deceived or misled;
- to take advantage of a consumer if the trader knows or ought reasonably to know that the consumer
- is not in a position to protect his own interests; or
- is not reasonably able to understand the character, nature, language or effect of the transaction or any matter related to the transaction; or[vii]
When consumer who has encountered an unfair practice, he should first seek to resolve the dispute with the trader through mediation. If that doesn’t work, one should file a claim in the court for civil remedies. Following are the examples of unfair practices-
- using small print to conceal material fact
- making false claims that goods are available at a discount for a stated period only
- offering false gifts in connection with the sale of goods
- making false claims that the process of goods have been discounted or that the goods have price benefit or advantages
- making false claims that goods are available or available in particular quantities or prices etc.
Above these examples tells how a consumer is cheated by the suppliers.
Thus, Singapore has a highly developed free market economy with large manufacturing but and increasing high-tech services. The upshot of all this is an increasingly affluent Singapore consumer with an ever-expanding range of products and services to consume from. Singapore’s approach regarding consumer law can be characterised as light- touched as consumers have remedies top seek. Therefore, consumer should be educated and be aware of the rights and responsibilities that are available to them.[viii]
[i] 1st march 2004.
[ii] CPFTA sec 9.
[iii] CPFTA sec 4A.
[iv] CPFTA sec 12A- 12F.
[v] CPFTA sec 6.
[vi] Lau kah hee and Tessa sim, A guide to Singapore’s Lemon law, Asia law network blog (Dec 5, 2017), https://www.google.co.in/amp/s/learn.asialawnetwork.com/.
[viii] Gary low, Singapore consumer law, Spingerlink (july 7,2018), link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-78431-1_22.
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