Complaints against renovation contractors rose by almost 50% last year from 2020: Case

Last year, the industry saw 1,300 complaints, up from 869 in 2020, said the Consumers Association of Singapore. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - Complaints against renovation contractors spiked by almost half in 2021, with close to one in two of the complaints about projects not completed on time and unsatisfactory workmanship.

Last year, the industry saw 1,300 complaints, up from 869 in 2020, said the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case).

The increase was due to the prolonged shortage of manpower and raw materials arising from continued Covid-19 border restrictions, and demand for home renovation in the residential property market in 2021.

In its annual release of consumer complaint statistics on Monday (Jan 31), Case also said it has seen a significant drop in the number of complaints against the travel industry as well as the medical and medical consumables industry.

Complaints against the travel industry fell significantly from 1,800 in 2020 to 673 in 2021, with the majority of the complaints about seeking refunds for flights or tour packages that were cancelled or postponed due to Covid-19.

There were 18 complaints related to vaccinated travel lane flight bookings and bus tickets. Most of these complaints pertained to changes in flight bookings and quarantine issues.

Complaints against the medical industry and sellers of medical consumables saw a drop of about 63 per cent, from 1,256 in 2020 to 469 in 2021.

The drop in both the travel and the medical and medical consumables industries had largely contributed to the 15 per cent drop in overall complaints Case received in 2021, compared with 2020.

In 2021, it saw 15,515 complaints, while in 2020, there were 18,335 complaints. 

Of the complaints received last year, Case had assisted with 2069, or about 13 per cent, of them. Of these, about 68 per cent, or 1,412 cases, were resolved, with $2 million of cash and in-kind recovered for consumers.

Case said consumers in the 13,446 other cases did not require the association's direct assistance and followed up with the businesses or resolved the issue on their own.

Mr Melvin Yong, president of Case, said the composition of consumer complaints has also returned to pre-pandemic levels.

This is "an early sign that consumer purchasing behaviour and habits in Singapore have stabilised to pre-pandemic levels", he added.

Complaints against the beauty industry took the top spot last year, accounting for almost one in 10 complaints received. About one-quarter of complaints against spas and beauty salons were related to pressure sales tactics and misleading claims.

Complaints about pressure sales tactics include beauty salons not allowing consumers to leave the premises unless they purchased beauty packages and performing treatments on consumers without their consent and charging them afterwards.

Misleading claims include beauty salons deceiving consumers on the number of sessions in the packages and how certain treatments can cure or alleviate health ailments.

There were 2,206 complaints related to online purchases in 2021, accounting for about 14 per cent of total complaints received.

This was a 49 per cent decrease from the 4,366 complaints received in 2020, largely due to a drop in complaints related to face masks, hand sanitisers, airline tickets and tour packages.

The two most common types of e-commerce complaints last year pertained to defective or non-conforming goods and delivery issues such as delayed deliveries, incomplete deliveries and wrong deliveries.

Consumers also suffered more than $520,000 in prepayment losses in 2021, a sharp increase from the $190,000 reported in 2020.

The beauty and bridal industries saw the greatest amount of prepayment losses in 2021. Consumers who made prepayments for beauty and bridal packages were unable to get a refund of their monies due to business insolvency.

Prepayment protection is an area of concern to Case, noted Mr Yong.

He said: "To better protect consumers against hefty financial losses due to company closures, we have called on the Government to consider mandating prepayment protection in industries which collect large sums of prepayment."

He added that as part of licensing conditions, the industry should also be required to better inform consumers of the steps they can take to protect themselves against business closure.

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