Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Better consumer protection laws needed

I sent this letter to ST Forum, but they may/may not publish it. So I'm "publishing" it on my very own 'forum' =)

Many of my overseas friends have commented that Singapore is a great place to shop. Indeed with the recent spate of mall openings, as well as a concerted effort being directly at improving the service standards in shops and restaurants, Singapore is taking a huge stride towards competing with the ever-popular shopping destinations such as Hong Kong and Thailand.

However, it is disturbing that the local consumer laws are still weak, compared to many of the region's counterparts. We often hear of businesses not honouring their contracts with customers, failing to provide even a basic level of customer service, and some unscrupulous business owners deciding to wind up their businesses when they've collected a significant sum of money from their clientele, leaving the latter high and dry.
It doesn't help that the local consumer Watchdog - CASE - often seem powerless to take these unethical business owners to task.

My recent experience with a local business highlights this problem.

After purchasing a table-top water feature from a shop in IMM (Fukai Environmental Pte Ltd), I discovered the pump/motor did not work upon reaching my home. On the same day of the purchase, I returned to the shop and requested for an exchange for the defective product, but was turned down flatly. Claiming they were only a distributor, I was asked instead to bring the product to its office, located in Woodlands Instrustrial park. And this had to be done on a weekday, within the office hours.
With no other option, I have to arrange for a day's leave from work to visit the Woodlands office, only to be told I'd have to leave the unit there for inspection. They can only return it after "3 to 5 days".

After a week and not getting any response from the company, I decided to call the company and was then informed that the water-feature I'd bought was without a warranty. This was indicated as a single line of hand-scribbled text on the receipt. This was certainly not informed to me at the point of purchase and I had been gullible not to check the receipt carefully at that time.
This wasn't all. The company even had the cheek to ask me for payment and this was for "checking the product", even if I should decide not to repair it!

My advice to all - before making the purchase, ask if the shop has an exchange policy and if it doesnt, then at least ensure they provide a warranty for their goods (especially electrical/electronics products).


Anonymous GT said...

I totally understand where you're coming from. The return/exchange policies in the US are excellent and that allows me to shop confidently, even online. Singapore needs to learn a thing or two from them, although I won't be surprised if Singaporeans take advantage of this service by wearing clothes with the price tag on and then returning them?!

6:23 PM  

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