SINGAPORE: Customers should be wary of pre-ticked boxes when making purchases online, the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) said on Tuesday (Jun 19).
In an advisory on its website, the consumer watchdog said such boxes are typically used by businesses to obtain consent from consumers for the purchase of additional goods or services, or to receive marketing materials.
Customers may not realise that they need to opt out of these pre-selected options if they do not want such goods or services.
CASE said earlier this year it received customer complaints about Singapore Airlines' (SIA) auto-inclusion of travel insurance. Travellers felt they were likely to overlook this detail and end up paying for insurance they did not want or need.
"CASE conveyed our concerns to SIA about the lack of transparency of prices for this option. After some deliberation, SIA agreed to remove the auto-inclusion of travel insurance feature on their booking website and offer it as an opt-in feature."
The watchdog also reached out to budget airlines Scoot and Jetstar. Scoot changed its pre-selection of travel insurance to an "opt-in" selection starting May 31, while Jetstar declined to make a similar change, saying that "each pre-selected item is clearly drawn to the attention of the customers through their booking flow", according to CASE.
"This is not acceptable to CASE and we will continue to engage Jetstar on this matter," it said.
CASE also highlighted the "hundreds of complaints" it received in 2015 on websites like StreetDeal.sg, RivaLife.com, OlaPrice.com and Straitsdeal.com.
"The membership subscription option was automatically selected when they made payment to the company.
"After CASE intervened, we persuaded Asia Deal Group (the holding company for the above companies) to sign a Voluntary Compliance Agreement to stop their practice of having such pre-ticked boxes," it said.
The watchdog said it is unethical for businesses to use pre-ticked boxes as there is no express consent given by the consumer.
"This may set a precedent for other industries to adopt or continue to do the same. We had previously surfaced this matter to the relevant authorities for further review," it added.
CASE said that consumers should look out for pre-selected options and ensure they unselect anything they do not want to purchase.
"Consumers should always remember to thoroughly check their bookings before making any final payments," it warned.