Same response from govt agencies despite years of business closures

I appreciate the replies by the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) and the Ministry of Trade and Industry on the issue of the oBike deposits (LTA mulling over security deposit for bike-sharing operators; and Make it a must to protect consumer prepayments; both published on July 14).

While prepayment is still not considered an unfair business practice, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has said that it will study the need for bike-sharing operators to place a security deposit or performance bond when the new licensing regime for shared-bike operators is implemented in October.

While expressing the importance of having proactive measures to protect consumers' prepayments, Case also said that the crux of the problem is that, as no consumer association or government can prevent sudden business closures, it can only be reactive in trying to help consumers to recover as much money as possible.

Such replies only reflect the inherent complacency of our government agencies and their partnering non-governmental organisations.

oBike was not the first case of a business that refused to refund deposits. Many past and similar cases over the years include travel agencies, health clubs, recreation entities and private schools.

It is nice to have reactive measures to help consumers.

However, it would be much better for Case to proactively offer advice or help before the trouble starts.

Sadly, with the LTA continuing its complacent mode and Case comfortable in its reactive fashion, consumer protection par excellence is still decades down the road.

Cheang Peng Wah

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 20, 2018, with the headline 'Same response from govt agencies despite years of business closures'. Print Edition | Subscribe