Onus must be on retailers to fulfil obligations

The Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act needs to put the onus on product manufacturers, agents, distributors and suppliers to be fair, so as to protect the interests of consumers in any transaction ("Standing up for consumer protection"; last Wednesday).

In the United States, consumers receive very good protection against errant suppliers, under the Consumer Protection Act.

Virginia's Lemon Law, for example, requires car manufacturers to refund the money or replace the vehicle when a new vehicle needs to be repaired three times or more for the same problem.

It would be wise for Singapore to emulate this type of legislation.

The Act should work in consumers' favour.

This is only fair, considering that suppliers make their money under the obligation to deliver quality as promised and to meet consumers' expectations that are set through their advertising.

It is good business practice that products be put under warranty as an assurance of performance and reliability.

This boosts customer confidence in the product, and provides an avenue for recourse, if needed.

Moreover, repeated cases of harassment and duplicity - such as the incidents at Sim Lim Square ("Mall gets 2 to 3 complaints daily"; Nov 5, 2014) - have tainted Singapore's image.

Therefore, we need to cultivate a tradition under which consumers are firmly protected by the Act.

Given that time-consuming red tape has long been a disincentive for consumers to report their cases, the dispute-settlement process should also be streamlined under the Act.

The key to making the Act cost-effective is to have one office in a ministry handle all complaints, deliver verdicts quickly, and force the errant parties to fulfil their obligations without delay.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 04, 2015, with the headline 'Onus must be on retailers to fulfil obligations'. Print Edition | Subscribe