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Complaints against motorcars industry rose in 2015: Consumer watchdog

There were 2,907 complaints registered last year, compared to the 2,112 complaints in 2014, says the Consumer Association of Singapore.

SINGAPORE: Consumer complaints against the motorcars industry rose last year, but complaints against electrical and electronics retailers and travel agencies fell, according to the latest statistics released by the Consumer Association of Singapore (CASE) on Sunday (Mar 13).

The motorcars industry was the top source of consumer complaints, with 2,907 complaints logged with the consumer watchdog in 2015 - a 37.6 per cent increase from 2,112 complaints in 2014. The industry has topped the complaints list since 2012.

The top reason for the complaints in this industry was defective goods, with about half of all motorcar cases taken by CASE involving defective parts. About 70 per cent of motorcar cases taken up involved second-hand cars.

CASE said one reason for this increase is the expectations consumers might have about the condition of the car. To tackle this, CASE said traders could be more upfront about existing and potential problems involving parts such as the gearbox or airconditioning.

“There are some reservations about that kind of sales tactic, because the vehicle traders association feels that ‘If I tell my consumer that my vehicle has this defect or that defect, they are not going to be able to close the deal’,” said Mr Lim Biow Chuan, president of CASE.

“So these are the challenges that they face, and these are the challenges that the consumer also face because he thinks, ‘If you don't tell me, then I expect this car to be in good condition and able to function accordingly'." 

However, the Singapore Vehicle Traders Association said there could still be a mix-up between what is agreed under warranty and what is subject to the Lemon Law.

"Issues over price and who should pay for repairs would have been discussed before a consumer buys a car," said Mr Michael Lim, the association's president.

"The dealers would have said, 'If you're buying at this price, you'll have to pay for any wear-and-tear issues'. But even if this agreement has been signed, some consumers will still complain to CASE that the dealer has not kept his end of the deal." 

FEWER COMPLAINTS AGAINST ELECTRONICS, ELECTRICAL RETAILERS

The Electrical and Electronics retailers sector remains the second-highest source of complaints, but saw numbers drop to 1,668 complaints in 2015 - down from 2,093 in 2014. The travel industry, which ranked third in 2014 with 1,926, dropped to sixth place in 2015 with 1,037 complaints, the statistics showed.

The consumer watchdog said this was due to electronics and electrical businesses becoming more forthcoming in resolving disputes about defective products with consumers as a result of the Lemon Law, as well as smarter shopping after the widespread publicity on errant retailers in Sim Lim Square.

Less cancellations and closures were also noted in the travel industry, it said.

Overall complaints received by CASE also continued to fall from 24,721 complaints in 2014 to 22,319 in 2015 - a decrease of 9.76 per cent.

However, the resolution rate for cases in which consumers authorise CASE to act on his or her behalf fell from 85.5 per cent in 2014 to 76.5 per cent in 2015. CASE said this was due to an increase in the number of such cases - from 1,381 in 2014 to 2,006 in 2015 - and the complexity and sums of money involved in such cases, among other factors.