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Stronger laws to crack down on errant retailers by mid-2015 after Sim Lim saga

Sim Lim Square

Current legislation will be reviewed so that swifter action can be taken against errant retailers and unfair trading practices, said Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck in Parliament on Monday.

Teo was responding to questions about when action would be taken against rogue salesmen at Sim Lim Square. The IT mall shot to international notoriety last year after a string of well-publicised cheating cases involving tourists. Sim Lim Square shop MobileAir made headlines when its owner refunded a tourist $1,010 in coins and drove a Vietnamese tourist to tears after overcharging him for an iPhone purchase.

 

Teo said the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) is currently studying the option of appointing an agency to investigate and prosecute such consumer disputes, and has been in consultation with various stakeholders.

 

“The government will review the legislation to strengthen the provisions so that quicker action can be taken to deter unfair trading practices and prevent errant retailers from side-stepping the restrictions under the Consumer Protection or Fair Trading Act (CPFTA),” said Teo. "Before mid-this year, we want to finish the review and recommend amendments."

 

“We will conclude the review and necessary amendments this year but I will caution that as we try to strengthen the law including harsh penalties, we have to strike a balance between consumers and businesses as well,” said Teo, adding that the Ministry did not want the new laws to affect the majority of honest and smaller merchants.

 

Responding to a suggestion that notices be put up at Changi Airport warning tourists about errant retailers, Teo said that such a move would be “unnecessary”.

 

“It may give visitors the wrong impression as the vast majority of businesses in Singapore are bona fide good retailers,” he said, saying that the issue should be dealt with at a “local level”.

 

“For example, the Consumer Association of Singapore (CASE) and Singapore Tourism Board (STB) have been working with Sim Lim Square’s management council to provide the public with more information about complaints against specific retailers.”

 

“MTI will continue to work with case and retailers to step up consumer education efforts to enhance consumer awareness of their rights and help them make more informed buying decisions,” he said.