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Plans to subject rogue retailers to personal injunctions

Teo Ser Luck says proposed changes to Fair Trading Act part of scheduled review by MTI
Tuesday, July 21, 2015 - 05:50
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Mr Teo said MTI will set up an agency with investigative and enforcement powers to implement the act.

Singapore

ROGUE retailers can in future be slapped with personal injunctions, on top of injunctions against their shops or businesses, said Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck on Monday.

Speaking on the sidelines of a walkabout in Rivervale Plaza, Mr Teo said the proposed amendments to the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act were part of a scheduled review of the act by MTI.

As part of the review, the ministry looked at best practices in other countries such as Australia and Hong Kong to identify gaps in Singapore's own Act, and ways to strengthen them.

Under the proposed expansion of the injunction order application, errant retailers served an injunction will have to make sure that consumers who transact with them - either as a shop or as an individual - are made aware that an injunction order has been applied, said Mr Teo.

"If they close the shop and the owner opens elsewhere, the owner still has the responsibility to inform whoever transacts with them. That's the awareness they have to create," he said, adding that this may include obligations to place advertisements or via other publicity action about the injunction order, or to list it on every business invoice.

To further streamline and strengthen the process of weeding out errant retailers, Mr Teo also announced that the MTI will set up an agency within the ministry that will have investigative as well as enforcement powers to carry out all the different measures according to the act.

The Consumers Association of Singapore (Case), meanwhile, will remain "the first line for consumers to launch complaints", said Mr Teo. Case will be given greater resources to create more awareness and education material and programmes to make sure consumers know their rights as well as to help them process consumer complaints in a quicker manner, including applying for an injunction through the agency, he added.

"We'll work together with Case as well as the police for more civil cases, those that touch on the Penal Code, but generally most cases will be between Case and the new agency."

These recommended additions to the Act will be subject to a public consultation in the third quarter of this year. Pending further refinement, it will be put up in parliament later this year, or up to the first quarter of next year, said Mr Teo.

Emphasing that the new measures are not meant to be a deterrent for retailers to set up businesses here but a deterrent for unfair retail practices, he added: "We believe that a majority of retailers in Singapore have good practices. Errant retailers are the minority, and these are the ones that would need stronger measures against them, as they will hurt Singapore's reputation as a retail hub."

The proposed amendments come in the wake of the Jover Chew incident, in which a dishonest electronics retailer in Sim Lim Square was charged in court in May for scamming over 25 buyers, including tourists. He later sold the business to an employee, who continued operating the shop under a new name.

Complaints against retailers at Sim Lim Square have gone down in the past few months as consumers themselves are getting smarter and more aware of their rights, Mr Teo said.

"If there is a complaint they know that there will be a follow up... there is a process that will kick in, and more resources will be put in to find out what went wrong," the minister said.