10/04/2022 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 10/05/2022 06:28
Mr. Liang Eng Hwa: To ask the Minister for Trade and Industry (a) what is the current number of frontline personnel available at CASE, the Small Claims Tribunal and the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore to assist consumers who are subjected to undue pressure or influence to enter into unfair transactions, respectively; (b) whether there are sufficient deterrent measures against such errant businesses; and (c) whether the existing regulatory safeguards need to be further strengthened.
Written Answer by Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong
1. The Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act (CPFTA) prescribes a list of unfair practices that suppliers must not engage in. An example would be the act of exerting undue pressure or undue influence on the consumer to enter a transaction.Consumers who encounter such practices may seek redress by approaching the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) for assistance. CASE can represent a consumer to negotiate a settlement with an errant supplier, or mediate between a consumer and an errant supplier. There are currently 11 frontline officers in CASE who assist consumers in dispute resolution.
2. If negotiation or mediation fails, consumers have the option of filing a claim with the Small Claims Tribunal or seeking other forms of legal redress. The State Courts' Central Registry is available to help consumers who have filed their claims with the Small Claims Tribunal. Unrepresented consumers who need legal advice may approach the Community Justice Centre for assistance.
3. For incidents of unfair practices, CASE may ask the supplier to enter into a Voluntary Compliance Agreement (VCA), which can include the undertaking not to engage in any unfair practices and to compensate the affected consumers. In egregious cases, CASE will refer errant suppliers to the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) for investigation under the CPFTA.The CCCS may then apply for a court injunction to restrain the supplier from engaging in the unfair practice. The Courts may also make accompanying orders, which include requiring the supplier to notify consumers of the injunction order and to report to CCCS any change to its business, such as the setting up of new branches. In the last five years, CCCS has investigated five cases involving pressure sales tactics. These suppliers have since ceased their unfair practices and either signed VCAs with CASE or provided undertakings to CCCS.
4. The Ministry of Trade and Industry and CCCS regularly review our consumer protection regime to ensure its relevance and adequate protection for consumers. Most businesses are responsible in their practices and seek to serve their customers well. We will continue to work with CASE and industry partners to protect and empower consumers.