Lemon law no protection if warranty isn't in contract

It has been reported that under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act, commonly called the "lemon law", second-hand car dealers are required to provide a six-month warranty to cover the cars they sell (Dealers posing as owners to sell their cars; Jan 22).

I found out the hard way that there is more to this than consumers' common understanding of the lemon law.

My godbrother and I bought a second-hand Ford Focus from a dealer in July last year, only to have it critically fail within the first week of collection due to a faulty fuel pump and collet (gear selector).

When we approached the dealer about the lemon law warranty, he said there was no such warranty, denied responsibility and refused to give any form of compensation for repairs.

We then approached the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case), which advised us to bring the matter to the Small Claims Tribunal.

We did so, but lost the case, as the judge said that any form of warranty had to be written down in black and white in the sales contract, which did not happen in our case.

It seems that regardless of the lemon law or any other consumer law, it all boils down to what is stated in the contract.

I find this rather strange, even if the dealer argues that the product was sold "as is".

The frequently asked questions on Case's website states clearly: "The retailer cannot contract out his obligations under the law. Even under existing laws, retailers cannot deny the consumer his rights to remedies under the proposed law, for example by simply displaying a notice saying 'we do not give refunds under any circumstances' or that 'an item has been sold as it is.'"

I hope other consumers will be aware of this and not become victims of technicalities like we were. Perhaps Case could help clear the air.

Samuel Tan Kian Huat

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 30, 2018, with the headline Lemon law no protection if warranty isn't in contract. Subscribe