Car industry tops Case complaints list - for 6th year

Last year, Case received 2,335 car-related complaints, with 60 per cent involving a pre-owned car.
Last year, Case received 2,335 car-related complaints, with 60 per cent involving a pre-owned car. ST FILE PHOTO

40% of all grouses in 2017 against autos, beauty, home renovation, electrical and electronic goods

The car industry is again at the top of the Consumers Association of Singapore's (Case) complaints list, the sixth year in a row.

The next three industries with the most number of complaints are: Beauty, home renovation, and electrical and electronic goods.

These four sectors accounted for 40 per cent of all complaints received in 2017, Case said yesterday. A total of 15,744 complaints across 47 industries were sent to Case last year.

Car-related grouses made up 15 per cent of all complaints, while the beauty industry was second, accounting for 9 per cent. Complaints about home renovation, and electrical and electronic goods were tied at 8 per cent each.

Of the cases reviewed, 77.2 per cent were resolved, an increase of 0.6 percentage point from 2016. Money recovered totalled $2.13 million, up from $1.95 million in 2016.

Last year, Case received 2,335 car-related grouses, with 60 per cent involving a pre-owned car.

"We observed an increasing trend in the percentage of defective car complaints over the years, from 40 per cent in 2013 to 52 per cent in 2017," Case noted. Complaints about cars with defects have risen for three years in a row.

For example, a consumer who bought a pre-owned car from a car dealer complained the engine stalled several times and emitted smoke a month later. A workshop quoted $4,800 to replace the engine.

After the consumer watchdog intervened, the car dealer agreed to replace the engine for free. Under Case's Lemon Law, if any defect is found within six months of a car's delivery, the dealer has to prove that the car was not defective at the time of delivery.

Case received 1,401 beauty-related complaints in 2017. These included a wide range of beauty services such as brow, facial, makeup, manicure, hair and massage. Gripes about sales tactics, such as high pressure sales tactics, came up tops.

For example, a consumer was pressured for several hours to sign up for a package at a beauty salon and was told she would need to pay only several hundred dollars a month.

The consumer later realised that the package cost $21,000, after the amount was deducted from her bank account.

Case pointed out that it was an unfair practice under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act to make misleading claims and to pressure consumers into a transaction. The consumer was able to get a full refund.

There were 1,335 complaints against renovation contractors. The top complaint was their failure to honour contract terms, such as meeting deadlines.

The electrical and electronic goods sector saw an increase in complaints, with 1,300 last year.

Case has also announced plans to enhance consumer education in the four industries topping the list.

It will promote the adoption of a "Standard and Functional Evaluation Checklist" for used-car buyers in its upcoming motoring roadshow in March.

The consumer watchdog will also raise awareness of prepayment protection and the five-day cooling-off period offered by CaseTrust-accredited spa and wellness businesses. It is also planning more talks and exhibitions for consumers on engaging a renovation contractor or buying electrical and electronic products.

Consumers with current unresolved disputes can approach Case for help on 6100-0315 or at www.case.org.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 08, 2018, with the headline 'Car industry tops Case complaints list - for 6th year'. Print Edition | Subscribe