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Fewer consumer complaints in first half of 2021, most related to beauty or renovation services

Fewer consumer complaints in first half of 2021, most related to beauty or renovation services

A file photo of a woman at a salon. (Photo: Gaya Chandramohan)

SINGAPORE: The Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) received fewer consumer complaints in the first half of 2021 as compared to the previous year, it said on Friday (Aug 6).

From January to June this year, CASE received 7,260 complaints, a drop of 19.5 per cent compared to the 9,013 complaints it received in the same period last year.

Most of the reports involve the beauty and renovation contractor industries, it added. Both industries also saw an increase in the number of complaints from 2020, with the figures from the renovation contractor industry nearly doubling.

The number of complaints against the travel, airline, medical and medical consumables industry, however, declined.

Breakdown of consumer complaints by industry. (Table: CASE)

“Overall, we are seeing the early signs that the type, nature and volume of consumer complaints for the first half of 2021 are reverting to pre-2020 levels as we adjust to the new normal,” said CASE president Melvin Yong.

“Given the uncertain economic outlook, we would like to urge consumers to avoid making large sums of prepayments to businesses, to safeguard their interests in the event of business disruptions or sudden business closures," added Mr Yong.

"We encourage consumers to alert us to potential unfair and unethical practices so that we can advocate for greater protection for consumers.”

COMPLAINTS ABOUT QUALITY OF SERVICES, PRODUCTS

The number of complaints against the renovation contractors industry nearly doubled to 621 from 312 in the same period last year, of which 48 per cent involve customers who were not satisfied with the quality of services.

Another one-third of the complaints are about contractors failing to complete projects on schedule and/or agreed project milestones, CASE said.

"To safeguard their interests, consumers are advised to avoid making a large prepayment upfront, and to negotiate for progressive payments to be made as each stage of the renovation work is completed," CASE added. 

CASE recommended that consumers use CaseTrust accredited renovation contractors, which are required to protect deposits placed via the purchase of a deposit performance bond in the event of sudden business closure.

CASE also received 627 complaints against the beauty industry in the first half of 2021, up 22 per cent from the previous year, when non-essential activities were restricted during the "circuit breaker" period.

About a quarter of the complaints are related to customers who were unsatisfied with services rendered by spas and beauty salons, with another quarter related to “unfair practices such as aggressive sales tactics”, it said.

FEWER COMPLAINTS AGAINST TRAVEL, MEDICAL COMPANIES

There were fewer complaints against the travel, airline, medical and medical consumables industries for the first half of 2021.

Complaints against the travel industries dropped 64 per cent to 406 in the first half of the year, as compared to the 1,138 reported in the same period last year.

Correspondingly, complaints against the airline industry fell by 73 per cent, from 475 last year to 129 this year, CASE added.

“The drop in the number of complaints against the travel and airline industries is likely attributable to consumers having adjusted to the COVID-19 travel restrictions and are not making travel or vacation plans in advance due to the uncertainty of the situation,” CASE said.

“In general, the complaints received against the travel and airlines industries in the first half of 2021 relate to instances where the consumers and businesses had previously agreed to a refund in-kind (e.g. credits, vouchers) or a rescheduling of travel plans, but the consumers were now requesting for monetary refund due to the global uncertainty in travel.”

A sharp decline was also seen in the medical and medical consumables industry, from 1,046 in 2020 to 263 in 2021.

The decrease is due to fewer complaints against retailers that overcharged for face or surgical masks, hand sanitisers and other related consumables, which were prevalent last year, CASE said.

It added that supply and prices of these products have since stabilised, but CASE noted that it will “continue to monitor and flag out profiteering and unfair practices”.

There were also 986 complaints related to online purchases in the first half of the year, a steep drop from 2,369 reported in 2020.

Most of the complaints were related to delivery issues, as well as for defective or non-conforming goods.

“Although there is a decrease in the number of complaints, CASE would like to encourage consumers to remain vigilant when they shop online,” the agency said.

Source: CNA/ga(ta)

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