Tackle errant advertising of the never-ending sale

Mannequins wearing red t-shirts with the word ''Sale'' on them.
Mannequins wearing red t-shirts with the word ''Sale'' on them. PHOTO: ST FILE

The strengthening of the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act (CPFTA) to dissuade errant retailers who are facing court orders from opening shop under new names should bring consumers some reassurance ("Move to expose errant retailers"; July 21).

But another concern, one that has been long neglected, is advertising - especially for consumer electronics and furniture - that ignores the spirit and letter of the Act and the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice.

The position of the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore is that all advertisements should be legal, decent, honest and truthful; and that self-regulation has been effective, citing general compliance with the code and the sanctions for non-compliance.

If that were so, then there should not have been the many ads over the years screaming of endless deals with exaggerated "offers".

Such irresistible "offers" are announced as being restricted to a limited period, only for the same message to be repeated continually.

The CPFTA and the self-regulated advertising code - touted as being based on international best practices - prohibit any false notion of a price benefit or discount, or situations where the "discounted" price has become or is perceived to be the usual price. The code also states that if a comparison is made between a reduced and a higher price, the higher price must have been charged for 28 consecutive days in the past six months.

Another prohibited act is to state that a sale is being held for a reason that is not true, for example, that the store is closing down or will be renovated.

Then, there are the very limited loss-leaders luring people to queue up long before a store opens: a classic bait-and-switch tactic.

While the Ministry of Trade and Industry is now intervening at the point-of-sale stage and at the after-sale stage with the "lemon law" in 2012 ("'Lemon law' off to a smooth start"; Sept 4, 2012), it is time for the ministry to address misleading advertising by retailers at the pre-sale stage.

Tan Chak Lim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 04, 2015, with the headline 'Tackle errant advertising of the never-ending sale'. Print Edition | Subscribe