Beef up consumer protection with fines for errant sellers

The Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act, commonly known as the "lemon law", has done much to protect consumers, but a recent experience with the Singapore office of a global electronics giant makes me feel that more legislative power should be added so that errant retailers are penalised besides having to make restitution.

I had an issue with the poor performance of the battery in a tablet from this company.

While the battery was later replaced, the problems of a long charging time and poor battery life remained.

I returned the tablet for further checks and, to my surprise, I was told that the company had tested the replacement battery and found no issues with it.

I was shown the results of two tests - a battery test that showed it would take more than eight hours to get a full charge, and a test to show that eight hours of usage playing YouTube videos over Wi-Fi utilised only 55 per cent of the battery capacity.

I cannot comprehend why a charging time of more than eight hours is acceptable. Tablets from other brands average only about four hours.

Also, the reading that eight hours of YouTube time over Wi-Fi used 55 per cent of the battery capacity is confounding. I am getting only half the usage time under the same conditions for this tablet.

It seems to me that the firm is just stating arbitrary standards to close the case.

I am in a dilemma. Should I file a complaint with the Consumers Association of Singapore, for which I would have to spend time and effort just to get a fair settlement?

I believe errant sellers are working on the assumption that it is too troublesome for an average consumer to go through the whole process of lodging a claim when small amounts are involved.

Furthermore, there is no penalty for the sellers. They just need to fulfil their contractual obligations if the consumer is bothered to pursue the matter. It is a calculated risk worth taking.

A penalty for errant sellers, such as a hefty fine, will help to further strengthen consumer protection in Singapore.

Teo Miang How

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 06, 2018, with the headline 'Beef up consumer protection with fines for errant sellers'. Print Edition | Subscribe