Consumers must be more discerning

Volkswagen's massive emissions fraud demonstrates how the auto industry not only pulls the wool over consumers' eyes, but also deceives the testing authorities with seeming impunity ("Volkswagen accused of dodging emission rules"; Sept 20).

Even now in Singapore, advertisements tout unbelievable fuel economy figures for their cars. In practice and on the roads, such fuel frugality is never realised.

False advertising and other forms of shenanigans and chicanery are iniquitous. When customers make a misinformed decision, the playing field is no more level and the market is distorted.

Where massive discounts for packages are given because the proprietors know the business is no longer viable, where guarantees are given but never undertaken, and where warranties are made null and void by small print under sub-clauses, the hapless consumer is almost powerless, with redress forthcoming after endless delay and only partially, if at all.

The only guarantee is that the victim will be disillusioned and weary from the process.

Consumers are often pliant and gullible, wishing the truth for every spiel they come across. Some are desperate while others are just plain ignorant or optimistic.

In the medical and health field, literally thousands of health supplements, most proven by the authorities to be nothing but rice and wheat powder, appear on the market as regularly as clockwork.

Those who think that a two-litre car can offer better fuel economy than a one-litre alternative, those who wish that health will come out of a box of supplements instead of a healthy lifestyle, and those who believe that a special hair treatment lasting for hours in a spa can be yours free, do think again. There is no such thing as a free lunch and it should not take the Consumers Association of Singapore to remind us of this simple adage constantly.

Yik Keng Yeong (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 28, 2015, with the headline 'Consumers must be more discerning'. Print Edition | Subscribe