Consumer Protection in Singapore

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LGST 101

Academic Year 2007/08 (Term 1)





Consumer Protection in Singapore

Lee Kai Xin Dorene, School of Accoutancy
Qiu Hui Ling Krisa, School of Accoutancy
Yvonne Ang Xin Yi, School of Business
Zhu Ying, School of Business
Zhao Li Juan, School of Accountancy

This paper aims to analyze the adequacy of consumer protection in Singapore. We will examine five difficult issues regarding consumer protection in Singapore, namely consumer rights, present day consumer protection legislation, the dispute resolution process, limitation of our local consumer watchdog, presence of monopolies in Singapore and lastly, education of consumers on their rights. Each section will embed the shortcomings of the present-day system, our group’s suggestion on how to enhance it and the lessons that Singapore can learn from other countries regarding the specific issues.

1. Consumer rights

Webster's dictionary defines consumerism as "a movement for the protection of the consumer against defective products, misleading advertising, etc." As consumers, we possess four basic rights as extolled by former US President John F. Kennedy in 1962 which are later called The Consumer Bill of Rights— a right to be safe, a right to choice, a right to be heard and a right to be informed[1]. CASE successfully lobbied for the Consumer Protection of Fair Trading Act (CPFTA) in 2004, which sets out a list of unfair trade practices where consumers can seek civil remedies by showing that traders have committed these practices.[2] We will further explore the adequacy of Singapore’s consumer protection in these four major areas.

1.1 Right to be safe

It would be highly unethical of a seller to endorse a product that would ultimately harm the consumer. Conversely, no consumer would want to buy an item which is unsafe for use or consumption. In Singapore, an agency which provide quality assurance for products and services and promote industry use of Singapore and international standards would be SPRING Singapore (Standards, Productivity and Innovation Board), a national standards and conformance body. One unique tool that SPRING Singapore came up with to ensure that household appliances and accessories designated as controlled goods meet specified safety standards and are safe for use is the SAFETY mark under the Consumer Protection (Safety Requirements) Registration Scheme[3].

1.2 Right to free choice

The right to free choice states that consumers should have a variety of options provided by different companies to choose from. Locally, this right is imbedded in our economy. The Singapore government has prevented monopolies and promoted fair competition among firms, indicating their persistent belief in consumers’ right to choice. A clear example is the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), whose main objective is to encourage effective competition in the telecommunications market in Singapore. To endure this in a multi-operator, multi-network environment, IDA formulates and develops short- and medium-term infocomm-related policies, as well as standards, codes of practices and advisory guidelines - all of which are enforceable by IDA - pertaining to issues such as licensing, interconnection, resource and competition management[4].

1.3 Right to be heard

The right to be heard asserts the ability of consumers to voice complaints and concerns about a product in order to have the issue handled efficiently and responsibly. National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) which is run by the government, founded Consumer Association of Singapore (CASE) in 1971 to be the consumer watchdog to champion consumer issues. CASE works towards hearing consumers’ concerns and redressing their grievances. Aggrieved consumers can seek CASE’s help in resolving their...
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