Protect buyers from misleading ads and offers

It is always good to study promotional offers carefully before placing orders for meals or products (It's time for firms to be upfront in ads, please, Nov 24).

For instance, one bank advertised a $15 discount for a minimum of $70 spent at an online retailer. I was about to complete the transaction when I noticed that the discount did not apply to the items I had selected. I cancelled the order.

A restaurant I went to promoted a one-for-one meal offer. But a closer look at the offer showed that many items on the menu, except for the unpopular ones, were excluded. I walked out of the restaurant.

Travel agents often use pressure tactics like "only a few seats left" to get you to book a trip. But after you book it, you realise the same number of seats is still available. I called one agent once to ask why and was told: "Some customers had just cancelled their bookings."

Misleading advertisements are a result of stiff competition. But consumers need full and truthful disclosure to make informed decisions. Deceptive advertising is bad business and violates the trust of consumers. Many retailers get around advertising rules by setting out their sale terms and conditions in fine print, so most people would not bother to read them.

Customers who receive something other than what they thought they ordered may not have recourse to refunds in this way.

Stricter regulations will protect consumers from misleading and false advertisements.

Isn't information that is likely to cause consumers to act in a way they might not otherwise misleading? If so, why are consumers not protected from this under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act?

Cheng Choon Fei

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 02, 2019, with the headline 'Protect buyers from misleading ads and offers'. Print Edition | Subscribe