Consumers skeptical about proposed 'lemon law'

A frequent online shopper for six years, Rachel Tan was let down numerous times with her disappointing purchases.
“The images posted online by the blog shops are not a true reflection of the products that I receive at times,” said the 23-year-old undergraduate. She added, “The fit can be totally off with poor workmanship.”

Just like all her friends, Tan does not bother complaining because she knows it’s going to be a lost cause and “at the moment, there is no such law to protect consumers”.

With the newly proposed “lemon law”, things could be about to change for her.

According to the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), the proposed amendments to the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act and the Hire Purchase Act (HPA) will provide consumers with additional remedies beyond just rejecting and getting a refund for defective goods.

If a defect is found within six months of purchase, the retailer may first offer to repair or replace the defective good without significant inconvenience to the buyer. If that is not possible, the consumer may keep the defective good and ask for a partial refund or return it for a full refund.

Responding to the new law, Tan said, “This sounds like a great consumer law. It will actually be more useful to online shoppers where we can’t see and feel our goods.”

She added, “I can totally make my case and ask for an exchange now.”

Nelson Soh, 44, senior business development manager agrees. “The new bill will help to protect consumers against bogus retailers.”

However, Soh feels that consumers may abuse their rights and problems may arise.

He recalled buying a hard disk that didn’t work three years ago. “My only gripe was that I had to go all the way down to the distributor to exchange the product,” he said. “Generally, the existing law is sufficient to protect you if you know what problem lies with the product.”

Similarly, Tan said, “Six months sounds really long for a business to take ownership. I am worried about how the new law is going to be effective and whether it will give rise to more grouses without actual results.”

“On a hypothetical level, I can imagine lots of fights between businesses and consumers,” she added.

With the proposed amendments, MTI hopes to improve the image of the retail industry of Singapore and foster good business practices among retailers. The ministry also aims to make the transactional process between consumers and retailers more transparent.


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