SINGAPORE - The car industry remained the top source of consumer complaints for the fifth year in a row in 2016, while grouses against clubs nearly doubled due to the sudden closure of California Fitness, the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) said on Friday (Feb 17).
Still, the number of total complaints received by the consumer watchdog declined from 22,319 in 2015 to 19,102 in 2016. It achieved a 76.6 per cent resolution rate for filed cases.
The number of complaints about cars increased by nine cases from 2015 to 2,916, while complaints about defects in cars went up slightly to make up about half of complaints against the industry. About 60 per cent of complaints in the motorcar industry in 2016 involved pre-owned motorcars, Case added.
The beauty industry came in second with 1,537 complaints while electrical and electronics drew 1,363 complaints, followed by contractors with 1,269, and clubs with 1,126. Complaints about furniture, cellphones, maid agencies, telecommunications and travel rounded out the top 10 ranking of industries that received complaints.
The number of complaints about clubs - which includes fitness, country, membership, sports and alumni clubs - made the most dramatic jump, rising from the 10th most complained against in 2015 to fifth in 2016. This was largely due to the closure of gym chain California Fitness in July 2016. Case received about 600 complaints regarding prepaid membership fees and unutilised gym sessions.
There was an increase in the number of complaints about defective goods, pressure sales tactics for beauty packages, and a spate of businesses shutting abruptly after collecting prepayments.
The number of complaints about defective goods has risen since the introduction of the Lemon Law in 2012, Case said. The number increased by about 1,000 between 2014 and 2016 to 4,319, with defective motorcar complaints topping the list last year, followed by electrical and electronics products and mobile phones.
The number of complaints about defective motorcars jumped from 844 in 2014 to 1,477 in 2016.
To address this, it will holdan educational roadshow in conjunction with World Consumer Rights Day on March 16 and 17.
Another issue is pressure sales tactics in the beauty industry. Some examples of such tactics include promoting beauty packages while a consumer is undergoing treatment and withholding the treatment if the consumer refusesto buy, deterring consumers from leaving, and withholding credit/debit cards until the consumer agrees to the purchase or charging the customer's credit card without consent.
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.
Case has also received numerous complaints aboutbusiness closures after prepayments across industries such as beauty, furniture, hair, motorcar and travel. It said it wouldcontinue to engage the authorities and advocate better prepayment protection, as well as review and strengthen prepayment protection for CaseTrust accreditation schemes.