SINGAPORE: The beauty industry and transportation firms received a surge in complaints from disgruntled customers last year, said the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) on Friday (Mar 1).
The beauty industry had the highest number of complaints, followed by the motorcars and transportation industries, CASE said, noting that this was the first time since 2012 that the car industry did not top the list.
CASE received 1,829 complaints against the beauty industry, a 31 per cent increase from 2017. A large number of the complaints resulted from businesses closing abruptly or aggressive sales tactics.
The sudden closure of Traditional Javanese Massage Hut saw consumers losing nearly S$200,000 in prepayments for massage packages and unused sessions across all outlets.
Consumers from the company's River Valley outlet received a pay-out from prepayment insurance because that outlet was under the CaseTrust Spa and Wellness accreditation scheme.
CASE also highlighted instances of aggressive sales. In one case, two salespeople retained an elderly consumer's debit card after she paid for one item, and made her sit through two hours of promotion.
When her card withdrawal limit was reached, one salesperson followed the consumer to an ATM to withdraw more money.
"Her bill amounted to $5,000. Upon CASE’s intervention, the consumer managed to receive a full refund," CASE said.
There was a 10-fold increase in complaints relating to the transportation industry - from 165 complaints in 2017 to 1,670 complaints in 2018.
Of these, 1,396 were against oBike after its decision to cease operations in June 2018.
CASE advised consumers to protect themselves by understanding the risks involved when they make advance payments to businesses.
"This is more so as the prevalence of prepayment cuts across many industries," it said.
The motorcars industry saw a 23 per cent drop in complaints, from 2,335 complaints in 2017 to 1,802 complaints in 2018. Non-conforming or defective goods accounted for 46 per cent of the complaints.
CASE said it also observed an increasing trend of complaints arising out of online transactions.
"While most complaints pertain to consumer transactions with traditional brick-and-mortar stores, there was a 60 per cent increase in the number of complaints involving online purchases handled by CASE from 2017 to 2018," it said.
In all, CASE received 16,090 complaints last year. About 70 per cent of the complaints negotiated and/or mediated by CASE on consumers’ behalf were resolved, with more than S$2.73 million recovered in cash and kind.