1.1 The Ministry of Trade and
Industry (‘MTI’) is seeking feedback on the proposed amendments to the Consumer
Protection (Fair Trading) Act (‘CPFTA’).
The public consultation period is from 16 May 2016 to 15 Jun 2016.
2. About the CPFTA
CPFTA was introduced in March 2004 and provides
for civil actions which may be taken against the small number of errant
retailers who persist in unfair practices. Singapore adopts a balanced approach to
consumer protection as overly onerous measures can impose unnecessary costs to
businesses which would ultimately be passed on to consumers.
regularly reviews the Act so that it remains relevant and provides adequate
protection for consumers. The last major review took place in 2012, with the
introduction of the "Lemon Law" which sets out provisions for consumers to seek
recourse for defective goods.
2.3 Current Consumer Protection Landscape
majority of retailers in Singapore are legitimate businesses who want to serve
their customers well. However, there are a small number of errant retailers who
persist in unfair practices. The current consumer protection framework
encompasses a spectrum of measures to deal with these errant retailers:
(a) Negotiation: For minor disputes CASE can assist consumers to negotiate with retailers and achieve resolution on the dispute.
(b) Mediation: CASE can arrange for mediation between dispute parties involved in dispute, through its mediation centre which was set up in 1999.
(c) Voluntary Compliance Agreement (VCA): As part of the CPFTA, CASE and STB can invite errant retailers to enter into a VCA in which the retailer will agree in writing to stop the unfair practice and
compensate affected consumers.
(d) Injunction: CASE and STB can file injunction
applications with the courts against errant retailers who persist in unfair practices. The injunction order issued by the courts will order that the retailer to cease the unfair practice.
(e) Civil Action: Consumers seeking monetary redress or other remedies can file a claim with the Small Claims Tribunal (SCT) (for amounts of up to $10,000 or $20,000
should both parties agree) or the Courts.
(f) Criminal Measures: Egregious cases that involve criminal activities are handled by the Police who will investigate and if found guilty prosecute the errant retailers under the Penal Code and the
Miscellaneous offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act.
and STB are not empowered under the CPFTA to investigate and take enforcement
action against errant retailers.
3. Proposed legislative changes
3.1 MTI has reviewed the existing consumer
protection framework and is proposing two key amendments to ensure adequate
protection for consumers and strengthen the current measures that may be taken
against the small number of errant retailers who persist in unfair trading
an administering agency
3.2.1 MTI proposes to appoint SPRING
Singapore (SPRING), a statutory board under MTI, as the administering agency
with investigation and enforcement powers. SPRING would be a suitable agency to
administer the CPFTA as its mandate is to oversee the growth of enterprises in
Singapore, including aspects of consumer protection such as standards and product
safety. The CPFTA currently does not provide any agency or entity with
investigation and enforcement powers.
and STB will remain the first points of contact for consumers and tourists, and
assist them to obtain redress and/or compensation through negotiation,
mediation and/or voluntary compliance agreements. Egregious retailers who persist
in unfair practices will be referred to SPRING for further investigations. CASE
will continue to play a key role in raising consumers’ awareness of unfair
practices and their rights under the CPFTA.
to jurisdictions like Australia and Hong Kong, MTI proposes that SPRING be
empowered to gather evidence to file timely injunction 
applications, and ensure that errant retailers comply with the injunction
orders. This includes the power to enter into premises under and without
warrant, require the production of documents and seize goods. As the appointed
administering agency, SPRING may take errant retailers who do not comply with
injunction orders to court for contempt of court. Contempt of court is
considered a criminal offence. The punishment for contempt of court is
imprisonment and/or a fine.
may impose additional measures on errant retailers as part of injunction orders
3.3.1 Publicise injunction orders. Currently,
CASE and STB are able to file injunction
applications with the courts against errant retailers who persist in unfair
practices. The injunction order issued by the courts will order the retailer to
cease the unfair practice. MTI proposes that the courts may additionally
require an errant retailer to publicise that it is under injunction. This
includes notifying and obtaining written acknowledgement from consumers prior
to any consumer transactions to ensure that consumers are aware that the
retailer is under an injunction order. The errant retailer may be required to incorporate
notices of the injunction order in receipts/invoices issued to consumers.
3.3.2 Notify appointed administering agency of
changes. To prevent errant retailers from side-stepping their
injunction orders, MTI proposes that the courts may require both the entities
and the individuals under injunction orders to notify SPRING, as the appointed
administering agency, when there are changes to their entity and/or employment
status. The appointed administering agency can then monitor errant retailers’
compliance with injunction orders, and take timely enforcement action if
Entity: Changes such as premises or number of
premises, internet address or number of internet addresses, and/or conversion
from a firm/company to a limited liability partnership.
Individual: Changes in employment status,
directorship, and/or partnership related to business as a retailer.
together, the proposed measures will allow for tougher action to be taken
against errant retailers and ensure that Singapore remains an attractive
shopping destination for locals and tourists.
4. Impact on consumers and retailers
proposed amendments aim to provide greater protection for consumers and enable
them to make informed purchasing decisions. Consumers can shop with confidence
and be assured that necessary action will be taken against errant retailers.
retailers are legitimate businesses who engage in fair trading practices, which
would not be adversely impacted by the changes. The proposed amendments are
targeted at the small number of persistent errant retailers who will be
subjected to the strengthened measures that may be taken against them.
5. Responses from industry stakeholders
current review commenced in 2015 following feedback from the industry and
public for stronger action to be taken against persistent errant retailers. MTI
also studied the consumer protection legislation in Australia and Hong Kong
which have similar business environments.
part of the review, MTI consulted key industry stakeholders such as the
Consumer Association of Singapore (CASE), the Singapore Retailers Association
(SRA), Sim Lim Square Management Committee (SLSMC) as well as individual
SRA and SLSMC were supportive of the proposed amendments. They will also work
closely with SPRING, as the appointed administering agency, to deal with errant
retailers. MTI has taken in the feedback
from these engagements in developing the proposed amendments to the CPFTA.
6. Invitation to Provide Feedback
6.1 MTI invites interested parties to provide
their views and comments on the proposals by 15 Jun 2016. Electronic submission
is encouraged. Please use the template in Annex C for your submission and send
it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
note that all submissions received will be published and attributed to the
respective respondents unless they expressly request MTI not to do so. As such,
if respondents would like (i) their whole submission or part of it, or (ii)
their identity, or both, to be kept confidential, please expressly state so in
the submission to MTI. In addition, MTI reserves the right not to publish any
submission received where MTI considers it not in the public interest to do so,
such as where the submission appears to be libellous or offensive.
6.3 Please note that this draft amendment to
the CPFTA is released only for the purpose of consultation and does not
represent the final legislation. All
comments received during the consultation exercise will be reviewed thoroughly
and, if accepted, will be incorporated into the Bill for introduction in
An injunction is a court order
requiring a person or entity to do or cease doing a specific action. Under the CPFTA, the courts may grant an
injunction order restraining a retailer from engaging in a specified unfair
practice set out in the Second Schedule of the CPFTA.
Annex A: Frequently Asked Questions
Annex B-1: Proposed Legislative changes
Annex B-2: Draft Bill
Annex C: Template for submission of responses.docx
Annex D-1: Infographic - Key Proposed Amendments to CPFTA
Annex D-2: Infographic - Measures that can be taken against Errant Retailers