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Unsatisfactory workmanship, broken deadlines behind spike in complaints about renovation contractors

Customers reported that they lost about S$57,940 in prepayments due to the sudden closure of renovation firms, said CASE.

Unsatisfactory workmanship, broken deadlines behind spike in complaints about renovation contractors

File photo of a home undergoing renovation. (Photo: iStock)

SINGAPORE: Customers lodged 807 complaints against home renovation contractors in the first half of this year, a 28 per cent increase from the same period last year.

The Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) said on Thursday (Jul 28) that about two-thirds of the 807 complaints were about renovation contractors failing to complete projects on schedule and unsatisfactory workmanship.

According to the consumers, the delays in project completion ranged between two and seven months. Customers lost a total of about S$57,940 in prepayments due to the sudden closure of renovation firms, said CASE.

“The failure of renovation contractors to complete projects on schedule can be largely attributed to manpower shortage and delays in the shipment of renovation materials caused by global supply chain disruptions,” said the consumer watchdog.

“CASE also observed that some renovation firms ran into financial difficulty or became insolvent, and were unable to complete renovation projects despite collecting consumers’ deposits upfront.”

President of CASE Melvin Yong said: “Consumers typically spend significant sums of money on home renovation projects. They expect the project to be completed on time and to a satisfactory standard.

“To manage consumers’ expectations and to avoid unnecessary disputes, renovation contractors who are facing challenges in completing projects on schedule should communicate expectations, timelines and changes honestly with consumers.”

He also advised customers to refrain from making large prepayments upfront, and to make payments progressively as each stage of the renovation is completed.

They can consider engaging CaseTrust accredited renovation contractors. These contractors commit to cost transparency and accountability for listed project deliverables.

If the business closes, consumers’ deposits are safeguarded via a deposit performance bond.

OTHER COMPLAINTS

CASE received a total of 7,960 consumer complaints in the first half of the year, a 9 per cent increase from the same period last year.

Complaints against contractors formed the most of the total complaints, followed by those about the electrical and electronics industry.

Complaints in the first half of 2022:

Industry Total complaints
Contractors 807
Electrical and electronics 786
Beauty 717
Motorcars 618
Travel 451
Furniture 417
Food and beverages 273
Telecommunications 232
Hair 207
Medical and medical consumables  202

The number of complaints against the electrical and electronic industry rose by 45 per cent in the first six months of this year compared to the same period last year.

About 40 per cent of the complaints were about defective or non-conforming goods, while 30 per cent were about firms failing to honour their contractual agreements.

The spike in complaints was attributed to disputes against a direct seller of alkaline water systems, Triple Lifestyle Marketing. CASE said it received 162 complaints about the company in the first half of this year.

“Consumers had complained that the company was either unresponsive to requests for service appointments or did not show up for scheduled appointments despite the company’s representations during the sales process that they would repair the water dispensers or water filtration systems if defects occurred,” said the consumer watchdog.

Mr Yong said that under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act, if a defect is found within six months of delivery, it is assumed the defect existed at the time of delivery. Consumers are entitled to exchange the defective product even after the stated exchange period by the retailer, he added.

CASE also received 717 complaints against the beauty industry in the first six months of this year, a 14 per cent increase from last year.

About a quarter of the complaints against spas and beauty salons related to pressure sales tactics and misleading claims. Consumers reported that they were pressured to buy high price massage or beauty treatment packages, or were misled about the efficacy of products or services.

A total of 1,107 complaints were lodged in the first half of this year relating to online purchases, an increase from the 986 complaints in the same period last year. The increase can be attributed to a higher number of complaints against online marketplaces and food delivery platforms.

The most common types of e-commerce complaints include defective or non-conforming goods, failure of the seller to deliver the food item or product, and disputes over refunds, said CASE.

Consumers reported S$289,842 in prepayment losses in the first half of this year. The beauty as well as medical and medical consumables industries saw the greatest amount of prepayment losses in that period.

Mr Yong said: “Over the past two years, some businesses in the beauty and medical aesthetics industries have been adversely impacted by deteriorating economic conditions and declining consumer spend, and were forced to close.

“As a result, consumers with prepaid packages lost some or all of their prepayments. CASE is concerned about this issue, as it can be difficult for consumers to recover their monies once a business goes insolvent.

“To better protect consumers against prepayment losses, CASE has called on the Government to mandate prepayment protection in industries where consumers tend to make large sums of payment upfront.”

Source: CNA/mi(rj)

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