Car industry still tops list of gripes by consumers in 2016

The number of complaints concerning cars increased slightly to 2,916, up from 2,907 in 2015.
The number of complaints concerning cars increased slightly to 2,916, up from 2,907 in 2015. PHOTO: ST FILE

Complaints to Case rise slightly to 2,916, mostly pertaining to pre-owned cars

The car industry could not put the brakes on consumer grouses last year as it remained the top source of complaints for the fifth year in a row, the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) said yesterday.

The number of complaints concerning cars increased slightly to 2,916, up from 2,907 in 2015. But it was still almost double that of the beauty industry, which came in second with 1,537 complaints. Electrical and electronics (1,363), contractors (1,269) and clubs (1,126) round up the top five.

Overall, the total number of complaints received by the consumer watchdog declined from 22,319 in 2015 to 19,102 last year.

Of the complaints pertaining to cars, about 60 per cent involved pre-owned cars. The number of complaints about defective cars jumped from 844 in 2014 to 1,477 last year, to make up about half of complaints against the industry.

To address the high number of complaints of defects in cars, Case will hold an educational roadshow in conjunction with World Consumer Rights Day on March 16 and 17.

The Singapore Vehicle Traders Association (SVTA) said it will be introducing an updated checklist at the roadshow for consumers to consult before buying pre-owned cars, said first vice-president Raymond Tang.

The SVTA also encourages its 370 members, made up largely of used car traders, to send cars for inspection to make sure they are in good condition before sale, he said.

"Used cars can be ones that are owned for a few months or left with a few months, and the condition is completely different," said Mr Tang. "We are working with Case to educate consumers on what to look out for before they buy."

Complaints about clubs - comprised mainly of fitness clubs - made the most dramatic jump, rising from the 10th most complained against (623) in 2015 to fifth last year (1,126).

This was largely due to the closure of gym chain California Fitness last July, which prompted some 600 complaints about prepaid membership fees and unutilised gym sessions.

Complaints about defective goods increased from 3,912 in 2015 to 4,319 last year. Defective car complaints topped the list, followed by electrical and electronics products and mobile phones.

Another top grouse last year was pressure sales tactics in the beauty industry, Case said.

Consumers are encouraged to patronise CaseTrust-accredited spa and wellness businesses, which are committed to a five-day cooling-off period and a "no selling" policy in the treatment room to deter the use of pressure sales tactics, the watchdog said. There were 697 accredited businesses under the scheme as of Jan 31.

Complaints about businesses that collected large pre-payments before abruptly shutting were spread across industries such as beauty, furniture, hair, cars and travel last year, said Case.

It said it would continue to engage the authorities and advocate better pre-payment protection, as well as review and strengthen prepayment protection for CaseTrust- accreditation schemes.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 18, 2017, with the headline 'Car industry still tops list of gripes by consumers in 2016'. Print Edition | Subscribe