Cars top grouse list of consumers for fourth year

Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) president Lim Biow Chuan said the increase in complaints about cars is a cause for concern. However, he noted that in the case of second-hand cars, "a lot depends on the age of the car and the expectations of
Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) president Lim Biow Chuan said the increase in complaints about cars is a cause for concern. However, he noted that in the case of second-hand cars, "a lot depends on the age of the car and the expectations of the buyer".ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Complaints up 38%; problems with timeshare out of top 10 list

Cars have topped the consumers' grouse list yet again.

The car industry remained the top source of complaints for the fourth year in a row, according to statistics released by the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) yesterday.

Complaints against the industry shot up 37.6 per cent last year to 2,907, with the majority of people unhappy over buying second-hand cars with defects, Case said. About seven in 10 cases it handled involved second-hand cars.

Things were looking up, however, for timeshare companies, as the industry dropped out of the top 10 most-complained-about list for the first time in more than a decade.

Timeshare complaints fell from 869 in 2014 to 536 last year, a decrease of 38.3 per cent. The consumer watchdog attributed this to its efforts in tackling errant companies, including taking out injunctions against several firms.

Rounding up the top three sectors with the most complaints are electrical and electronics with 1,668 and beauty with 1,664, though both saw a slight dip over the previous year. Several other sectors also saw a fall in complaints, including travel and mobile phones.

Making its entry to the top 10 list for the first time was the clubs sector, with 623 complaints lodged. About 90 per cent were against fitness clubs and mostly related to membership termination, Case said.

  • UNHAPPY CUSTOMERS

  • Here are the sectors with the most number of complaints received by the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) last year:

    1. Cars: 2,907

    2. Electrical and electronics: 1,668

    3. Beauty: 1,664

    4. Contractors: 1,447

    5. Furniture: 1,237

    6. Travel: 1,037

    7. Maid agencies: 914

    8. Telecommunications: 836

    9. Mobile phones: 826

    10. Clubs (fitness and others): 623

Overall, consumer complaints received by Case fell by 9.7 per cent to 22,319, though the number of filed cases went up 45.3 per cent to 2,006 last year. In filed cases, the consumer authorises Case to handle the dispute on his or her behalf.

The statistics were released at a carnival held by Case at Chinatown Point yesterday to celebrate World Consumer Rights Day, as well as Case's 45th anniversary.

Case president Lim Biow Chuan said that better consumer education and legislation have led to both an overall drop in complaints and an increase in filed cases.

"The lemon law has empowered consumers to feel that if I have a basis for my complaint, then I want Case to help push for my rights," he said at the event.

The "lemon law" is an amendment to the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act and the Hire Purchase Act that requires retailers to repair or replace a product found to be defective within six months of purchase or provide a refund.

Mr Lim, who is also Deputy Speaker of Parliament and MP for Mountbatten, said that the long-troubled timeshare industry falling out of the top 10 complaint rankings was cause for celebration.

The increase in complaints about cars, however, was a cause for concern, he added.

Noting that most complaints related to second-hand cars, he said: "The reality is that (the cases of) second-hand cars are not so straightforward. A lot depends on the age of the car and the expectations of the buyer. So, we are still exploring with the Singapore Vehicle Traders Association (SVTA) to see what we can do to bring complaints down."

SVTA president Michael Lim agreed, and noted that while the number of complaints against car sellers was in the thousands, the actual number of car cases handled by Case last year was under 500.

Mr Lim said the association, which counts about 400 used car dealers as members, is working with Case on efforts to educate car buyers.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 14, 2016, with the headline 'Cars top grouse list of consumers for fourth year'. Print Edition | Subscribe