Complaints against car industry top consumer rankings again

Car-related grouses made up 15 per cent of all complaints, according to the Consumers Association of Singapore.
Car-related grouses made up 15 per cent of all complaints, according to the Consumers Association of Singapore.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - 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 complaint cases 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 on Wednesday (Feb 7). 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 of all complaints.

Complaints about home renovation, and electrical and electronic goods were tied at 8 per cent each.

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

Last year, Case received 2,335 car-related complaints. Among these, 60 per cent involved a pre-owned car.

For example, a consumer who bought a pre-owned car from a car dealer complained that 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 also received 1,401 beauty-related complaints in 2017.

These included a wide range of beauty services, such as brow, facial, make-up, manicure, massage and hair. Complaints about sales tactics, such as high-pressure ones, 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 pressurise consumers into a transaction. The consumer was able to get a full refund.

The top complaint about renovation contractors was the failure to honour their contract terms, such as meeting deadlines.

Electrical and electronic goods saw an increase, with 1,300 complaints last year.

On Wednesday, Case announced plans to enhance consumer education in the four industries that topped 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 increase awareness on pre-payment 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