We refer to letters by Bea Joy Lee (Extend law to protect online shoppers too", September 29) and David Chang Cheok Weng ("Need for holistic reform in consumer protection", September 24).
The Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act (CPFTA) provides the same protection to consumers who make purchases from online retailers or brick-and-mortar shops. This means that actions can be taken against errant online retailers under our legislation. However, it can be challenging to enforce the judgement against an overseas retailer if he has no presence in Singapore. Consumers thus need to be aware of the risks of making online purchases from overseas retailers and take extra steps to protect themselves before making their purchases. This could include checking reviews on the reputation of websites and retailers, and the refund policy and mechanisms.
We understand the frustrations of consumers when there is sudden business failure, especially when they have made prepayments for services or delivery of goods that have yet to be fulfilled. Many businesses offer various choices, including prepaid packages and earlybird specials, as a way to attract customers. These are common business practices worldwide. Consumers also benefit from the discounts for purchasing prepaid packages.
Given the wide range of businesses, it would be challenging to impose broad-based measures on all businesses to protect consumers against loss of prepayments from business closures. Even large businesses that have been in business for many years are not immune to business failures. Overseas jurisdictions such as the US, Japan, Australia and Hong Kong, do not impose broad-based measures as the increased cost of doing business would eventually be passed on to consumers.
Consumer education thus remains an important pillar of our consumer protection framework. Consumers must learn to exercise their choices carefully, especially for large purchases or contracts over long periods. We will continue to work with the Consumer Association of Singapore (CASE) to improve consumer education.
MTI will continue to monitor the retail landscape and study the developments in other jurisdictions as part of our ongoing efforts to ensure that the CPFTA remains relevant and provides adequate protection to consumers.
Mrs Cindy Keng
Director, Corporate Communications Division
Ministry of Trade and Industry