Case to hold free talks in heartland to educate consumers about their rights

People in Singapore at a shopping district.
People in Singapore at a shopping district.PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - How to handle door-to-door salesmen, what to look out for before making prepayments and how to lodge complaints against errant retailers.

These topics and more will be addressed during a series of upcoming free talks by Singapore's consumer watchdog, to educate consumers on their rights.

The Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) will hold at least 10 talks a year across Singapore over the next three years, under a Memorandum of Understanding with the Community Development Councils (CDCs) signed on Friday (Sept 23). This is the two parties' first such partnership.

The agreement is timely as it comes a week after the Government passed a law to strengthen measures against errant retailers who persist in unfair trading practices, said Ms Low Yen Ling, Mayor of the South West District.

It allows Case to tap into the network of the five CDCs and reach out to as many residents as possible, particularly the elderly, housewives and young students who are "very often the soft targets of errant retailers", said Ms Low, who is also Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Education, and Trade and Industry.

The talks will cover the changes to the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act, as well as other consumer protection laws such as the Lemon Law.

They will also be customised according to the needs of residents. For example, in the South West District where new flats have just been built, the talks will educate residents - mostly young families - on what they should look out for when engaging a renovation contractor.

Case officers will be available to offer advice to residents, and explain how they can lodge a complaint with Case if they have an unresolved dispute with a retailer.

Case president Lim Biow Chuan said consumer education remains the cornerstone of consumer protection in Singapore.

"Although consumer protection laws and regulatory actions help to protect consumers' interests, it is consumers themselves who hold the main responsibility to be aware of their own rights," said Mr Lim, who is also MP for Mountbatten.

"If consumers sign away their rights too easily... there is a limit as to how the laws can help them."

The first talk, on CaseTrust accredited firms and Case's mediation process, was held at Jurong Spring Community Centre on Friday. Those interested to attend the talks - which are about two hours long and conducted in both English and Mandarin for now - can contact their respective CDCs.