Case reports drop in complaints in Jan-June as consumers respond to Covid-19 changes

The Consumers Association of Singapore said it received 7,260 complaints in the first half of this year.
The Consumers Association of Singapore said it received 7,260 complaints in the first half of this year.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - The volume of complaints received from consumers in the first half of this year has dropped compared with the same period last year as people adjust to the changes brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a statement on Friday (Aug 6), the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) said it received 7,260 complaints in the first half of this year, a 19.5 per cent drop from the 9,013 complaints it received in the same period last year.

The number of complaints against firms in the travel and medical industries, as well as against sellers of medical consumables, for instance, had fallen in the first half of this year, despite these categories topping the list in the same period last year.

Last year, the travel industry saw 1,138 complaints, while 1,046 complaints were made against the medical industry and sellers of medical consumables, such as masks and hand sanitiser.

This has since fallen to 406 complaints against the travel industry, and 263 complaints against the medical and medical consumables industry.

Case said: "The drop in the number of complaints against the travel and airlines industries is likely attributable to consumers having adjusted to the Covid-19 travel restrictions and are not making travel or vacation plans in advance due to the uncertainty of the situation."

It added that there were fewer complaints against sellers who overcharge for surgical and face masks, and hand sanitiser, and noted that the supply and prices of medical consumables have stabilised in the past year.

Mr Melvin Yong, president of the consumer watchdog, said the latest numbers are a sign that consumers are adapting to the Covid-19 pandemic, citing how people are putting their travel plans on hold amid the uncertain global situation.

The travel industry has been hard hit due to Covid-19 restrictions. For instance, passenger traffic through Changi Airport fell from 68.3 million in 2019 to 11.8 million in 2020, a drop of about 82 per cent.

Mr Yong also said the number of Covid-19 related complaints has come down on the whole.

However, complaints against firms in the beauty industry and against renovation contractors have increased, and accounted for the highest number of complaints in the first half of this year.

The number of complaints against renovation contractors was close to double the number of complaints received last year, from 312 complaints last year to 621 this year.

About 48 per cent were from consumers unsatisfied with the quality of the renovation works, while one-third of the complaints were about contractors failing to complete projects on time.

Case said that the increase in the number of complaints is likely due to a prolonged shortage in manpower and raw materials arising from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The beauty industry also saw a 22 per cent increase in the number of complaints, from 513 complaints in the first half of last year to 627 complaints in the same period this year.

The fewer number of complaints last year could be attributed to the circuit breaker period, when there was a restriction on non-essential activities such as beauty services, Case said.

Of the complaints received this year, about one-quarter of them relate to consumers being unsatisfied with services by spas and beauty salons, and another one-quarter of the complaints were about unfair practices such as aggressive sales tactics.

Mr Yong said: "Given the uncertain economic outlook, we would like to urge consumers to avoid making large sums of prepayments to businesses, to safeguard their interests in the event of business disruptions or sudden business closures."