Beauty, restaurant advertisements saw highest number of consumer complaints in 2018

The Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore received a total of 218 cases of feedback, which includes complaints, in 2018.
The Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore received a total of 218 cases of feedback, which includes complaints, in 2018.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - Misleading beauty-related advertisements were the top grouses among consumers last year, with complaints about the restaurant sector coming in a close second.

The Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (Asas), which released its latest figures on Tuesday (April 30), said that it received a total of 218 cases of feedback in 2018. Feedback includes complaints as well as requests for advertising advice.

Of these, the highest number - 19 - involved the beauty industry, including firms which advertise hair and slimming treatments.

Five of the 19 reports received were on misleading claims about hair loss treatments.

Asas chairman Ang Peng Hwa said that the advertisements also did not have the following mandatory disclaimer, as stated in the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice: "There is no scientific proof that any product (except certain registered medicinal products) or service can retard hair loss or promote hair growth."

Professor Ang said that Asas has followed up with these advertisers to ensure that their advertisements include the disclaimer.

Three cases of beauty-related feedback involved promotions that consumers said were not honoured because the terms and conditions had been referred to, but not written in the advertisement.

 

The promotions in these advertisements had ended when the cases were reported.

Prof Ang said that Asas has advised these businesses that future promotions should comply with the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice.

"Advertisers are reminded that promotional information must be truthful, and all pertinent terms and conditions must be clearly stated," he said.

"If an advertisement does not include the terms and conditions, it should make it easy for the consumer to find them."

Last year, Asas received 18 reports against the restaurant sector, which includes food delivery and restaurant reservation mobile apps.

The main issues were related to price and discount discrepancies in advertisements, or a lack of clarity in the description of food and beverage items on menus and promotional materials.

Citing an example, Prof Ang said that a fast-food restaurant had displayed a promotion saying "upsize your side and drink for $1" on its counter, with an image of orange juice and a side order.

However, consumers who took that option with orange juice were charged $2 instead.

Asas wrote to the eatery, which then clarified that the $1 promotion applied only to soft drinks.

The eatery said that it will be changing the image used in its display to avoid misunderstandings in the future.

Prof Ang said that advertisers should ensure that the information on their promotional materials is clear, accurate and up to date. This includes prices and terms and conditions.

In another example, a consumer claimed that he was charged goods and services tax on top of a restaurant's listed prices, when it had not been indicated in the promotional materials.

The restaurant later complied with Asas' advice to indicate the prices, terms and conditions for their promotions clearly and prominently, Prof Ang added.

Other industries that saw a high number of cases of feedback last year included the food and beverage sector, with 15 cases; electrical and electronics; and telecommunications, which had 14 each.

Consumers who are aware of advertisements that are not legal, decent, honest or truthful are encouraged to write to Asas through its website at www.asas.org.sg/onlinecomplaint