SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) is working with the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) to develop a crowdsourcing app for consumers to compare prices for groceries and cooked food, said Senior Parliamentary Secretary Tan Wu Meng on Monday (Mar 4).
Speaking during his ministry’s Committee of Supply Debate in Parliament, Dr Tan said the app will allow consumers to share price information, compare options and allow them to save money, time and effort.
“Those with less time, less awareness of market prices, and less purchasing experience, will benefit the most,” said Dr Tan.
He added that seniors without smartphones could still benefit, by learning of good bargains through others who use the app.
‘STRINGENT REQUIREMENTS’ FOR ELECTRICITY RETAILERS
Moreover, Dr Tan added that the Government wants to ensure that consumers benefit from more choices and competitive prices from well-functioning markets.
He highlighted the Open Electricity Market (OEM) as an example of giving households and small businesses more choices, while protecting consumer’s interest.
During the debate, Workers’ Party chief Pritam Singh raised concerns on how the Energy Market Authority (EMA) would deal with retailers in the OEM which unilaterally terminate their contracts in the retail space.
He asked what recourse do households have against retailers that unilaterally abandon their contract or are unable to fulfil it.
Mr Singh gave the example of one retailer, Red Dot Power, which previously had an electricity supply contract with the Aljuined-Hougang Town Council. The company exited the market, and all accounts under the town council purview was transferred to SP Group.
“While there was no interruption of electricity services, weeks elapsed before a new contract could be called for and awarded,” said Mr Singh.
This caused the town council to incur costs as the SP Group tariffs rate was “significantly higher” than the contracted rate, Mr Singh said.
In reply, Dr Tan stressed that the retailers are thoroughly vetted and have to satisfy a stringent set of requirements before being allowed to serve OEM consumers.
He pointed to how retailers have to consistently hedge at least 50 per cent of their wholesale electricity price risk.
“Retailers must also safeguard all security deposits collected from household consumers and return them to these household consumers should a retailer exit the market,” Dr Tan added.
He also outlined how the EMA also has safeguards in place to prevent retailers from unilaterally terminating contracts, unless they exit the market or their consumers breach the contract terms.
“Retailers who wish to exit the market are expected to find other retailers to take on those consumers at the same terms and conditions," he said.
If the retailer cannot find a replacement or if the consumer rejects the proposed transfer, the supply of electricity to the consumer will not be disrupted as the consumer will be transferred to SP Group."
MORE SUPPORT FOR TACs
In his speech, Dr Tan also announced more support for Trade Associations and Chambers (TACs), which he described as “crucial partners” that will help Singapore achieve “broad-based economic success”.
He announced that Enterprise Singapore (ESG) will help develop 5-year roadmaps with TACs, to help them adopt a longer-term strategy to drive industry transformation.
He added that the Government will support TACs to implement roadmaps through the Local Enterprise and Association Development (LEAD) programme. These roadmaps include seconding public officers to selected TACs, to allow them to “better understand” Singapore’s businesses’ concerns.
Dr Tan highlighted that since the LEAD programme was launched in 2005, it has supported more than 50 TACs in spearheading projects involving close to 52,000 companies.
“TACs are a store of social capital - institutional memory, industry networks, access to overseas markets. TACs help the Government to better understand the needs of our business community,” said Dr Tan.