22 school-bus operators on CaseTrust scheme to protect pre-payments

School buses leaving the school compound of Red Swastika School, on Jan 2, 2015. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Parents whose children take the school bus can now rest assured that their deposits and pre-payments to 22 such bus operators will not be lost.

The Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) and the Singapore School Transport Association (SSTA) on Monday (Sept 25) launched a CaseTrust-SSTA joint accreditation scheme.

Under this, bus operators have to buy a $300,000 performance guarantee bond to insure consumers' payments against the companies winding up.

Currently, 22 SSTA members are accredited under this scheme. These 22 operators account for bus services to more than half of primary schools here.

Case and SSTA started work on this accreditation scheme in 2015, when a few incidents involving bus operators left parents and pupils stranded.

In January 2015, a transport service provider for Bethesda (Bedok-Tampines) Kindergarten terminated its services abruptly, affecting 70 of the kindergarten's 200 pupils.

In the same month, Red Swastika School in Bedok and Coral Primary in Pasir Ris, which had hired bus company Sindoz Group for the new school year, terminated their contracts at the last minute after finding the firm's service unsatisfactory.

In both cases, there were parents who had made pre-payments.

Case said: "Parents who had made advance payment of up to two months of bus services for their children were unable to seek a refund as the school bus operator had ceased operations."

Apart from insuring parents' payments against business closure, the accreditation scheme will also mean that bus operators will have to send their staff for 40 hours of training over two years.

Bus operators are also required to clearly document policies on service charges, termination and refund, and attend Case mediation in the event of a consumer dispute.

Mr Wong Ann Lin, executive council chairman of SSTA, said this scheme signifies the industry's willingness to provide better service.

"The accreditation will also instil greater confidence among SSTA members, schools, parents and the general public, as well as uplift the association's professional status and leadership in the school transport trade."

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