Forum: Buyers are usually on the losing end

Many aggrieved consumers may choose to keep silent as the cost of redress may be prohibitive relative to the amount paid.
Many aggrieved consumers may choose to keep silent as the cost of redress may be prohibitive relative to the amount paid.PHOTO: ST

The relationship between a seller and a buyer is an unequal one (Protect buyers from misleading ads and offers, by Mr Cheng Choon Fei, Dec 2). There is an asymmetry of information in the seller's favour. Be it product or performance knowledge, he knows more because it is his bread and butter.

Often, buyers rely on the words of the seller before making a purchase. After that, it is one's word against the other.

As a result, buyers are on the losing end.

Many aggrieved consumers may choose to keep silent as the cost of redress may be prohibitive relative to the amount paid.

For services, it is harder to prove non-performance. Others may not be aware of their rights or avenues to seek redress. Still others may acquiesce to save themselves the embarrassment of having been duped.

The law may offer protection only to an extent. The onus of proof falls on the buyer, and proving fault could be onerous.

Evidence may not be readily available. Who are consumers to question service professionals or product experts? Will professional bodies readily step up to show up one of their own?

This is where consumer rights advocacy plays an essential independent party role. It acts as a middleman between feuding parties with a view to resolving issues through amicable means.

At the end of the day, when enticed with an offer too good to be true, "caveat emptor" or buyer beware is still the best advice to buyers to act prudently.

Lee Teck Chuan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 05, 2019, with the headline 'Buyers are usually on the losing end'. Print Edition | Subscribe