Case partners CDCs to hold free talks on consumer rights

How to handle door-to-door salesmen, what to look out for before making prepayments and how to lodge complaints against errant retailers.

These topics and others will be addressed during a series of free talks by Singapore's consumer watchdog, to educate consumers on their rights.

The Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) will hold at least 10 talks a year over the next three years, under a Memorandum of Understanding signed yesterday with the Community Development Councils (CDCs). This is their first such partnership.

South West District Mayor Low Yen Ling said the agreement is timely as it comes a week after the Government passed a law to strengthen measures against errant retailers.

It allows Case to tap the network of the five CDCs and reach as many residents as possible, particularly the elderly, housewives and young students who are "very often the soft targets of errant retailers", said Ms Low, who is also Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Trade and Industry.

Last year, Case received 22,319 complaints, a 9.7 per cent fall from 2014. But the number of filed cases - where the consumer authorises Case to handle the dispute - rose 45.3 per cent to 2,006.

  • Case seeks review of arbitration clause

  • The Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) yesterday flagged another issue faced by consumers: A clause in the contract between a business and a consumer that requires both parties to go for arbitration in the event of a dispute.

    This clause is sometimes buried in a contract's terms and conditions, which consumers usually do not read thoroughly.

    "If there is an arbitration clause, you can't go to the Small Claims Tribunal," said Case president Lim Biow Chuan.

    Case has asked the Ministry of Trade and Industry to consider making this clause invalid in cases where it may be unfair.

    Melissa Lin

The talks will cover the changes to the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act, and other consumer laws such as the "lemon law".

They will also be customised to the needs of residents. For example, in the South West District, where new flats have just been built, the talks will focus on what to look out for when engaging a renovation contractor.

Case officers will be on hand to offer advice to residents and explain how they can lodge a complaint if they have an unresolved dispute with a retailer.

Case president Lim Biow Chuan said consumer education remains the cornerstone of consumer protection in Singapore.

"Although consumer protection laws and regulatory actions help to protect consumers' interests, it is consumers themselves who hold the main responsibility to be aware of their own rights," said Mr Lim, who is also MP for Mountbatten.

The first talk was held at Jurong Spring Community Centre yesterday. Housewife Alice Wong, 74, who attended the talk, said: "I learnt that I should find out more about a company before buying any package from it."

Those interested in the talks - which are about two hours long and in English and Mandarin, for now - can contact their respective CDCs.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 24, 2016, with the headline 'Case partners CDCs to hold free talks on consumer rights'. Print Edition | Subscribe