SINGAPORE: Clear deadlines and transparent pricing with no hidden costs were among the recommended practices outlined in a new guide on fair trading practices for the renovation industry.
The guide, published by the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS), also recommended that contractors provide a clear exchange, repair and refund policy.
The recommendations are intended to improve business practices in the industry and help the suppliers of interior design or renovation services steer clear of unfair practices, said the commission and the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) on Thursday (May 5).
The renovation industry has seen one of the highest rates of complaints made to CASE, the authorities said in a joint news release.
CASE received 1,300 and 419 complaints against contractors in 2021 and the first quarter of 2022 respectively.
Of these, CASE provided advice to 87 per cent of the consumers on how to resolve their disputes and assisted 13 per cent of the consumers to negotiate and mediate their disputes. About 39 per cent of filed cases against renovation contractors were resolved.
For cases where a resolution could not be reached, 76 per cent of the consumers opted to pursue a resolution through legal means and 24 per cent decided not to pursue further.
CCCS and CASE said the majority of complaints received involved unsatisfactory service and failure to honour contractual obligations on the part of the contractors. This includes poor workmanship, poor quality of material used for renovation, slow progress or failure to complete renovation works on time.
“The guide is intended to raise contractors’ awareness of good practices that they should adopt to enable consumers to make well-informed decisions as well as conduct which may constitute unfair practices under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act 2003,” they said.
The guide was finalised after CCCS sought feedback from CASE and stakeholders such as the Singapore Renovation Contractors and Material Suppliers Association, the Singapore Interior Design Accreditation Council and the Ministry of National Development.
The guide covers the following five main areas, including dos and don’ts to highlight recommended good practices to follow and practices to avoid:
Recommended good practices
1. Mutually agreed renovation timeline
Contractors should assess their ability to undertake and complete work in a timely manner before committing to the consumer. A mutually agreed schedule with clear deadlines, including the projected start and completion date, should be included in the renovation contract. There should be agreement on how work delays or contingencies should be managed.
2. Transparent pricing with no hidden costs
Contractors should ensure that the quoted prices are transparent, accurate, clear and itemised. Mandatory charges for the works should be stated in the quotation or contract at the onset. If the charges cannot be calculated in advance, contractors should disclose the existence of such charges and provide estimates to the consumer before the contract is entered into.
3. Accurate description of goods and services
Contractors should ensure that claims made on goods and services and claims in relation to their business are clear and accurate. A reasonably detailed breakdown and description of the goods and services to be supplied for the works involved should be stated clearly in the renovation contract.
4. Clear exchange, repair and refund policy
Contractors should inform consumers of their rights and remedies, such as exchanges, repairs and refunds. These should be clearly and accurately stated in the contract. Agreed warranties should also be honoured.
5. Obtaining consumer’s consent for the supply of goods or services
Contractors should adhere to the renovation contract once it has been signed as well as supply goods and services that the consumer has consented to. Revisions to the contract or work order variations should be made only with the consumer’s express agreement.
The full guide on Fair Trading Practices for the Renovation Industry is available on the CCCS website.
CCCS chief executive Sia Aik Kor said contractors should provide clear and accurate information to consumers and not make false or misleading representations regarding their services.
“Over the past two years, the renovation industry has had to overcome manpower and material supply shortages, which may have affected service delivery," said Ms Sia.
"Adopting transparent and fair trading practices will help Contractors build trust, maintain a good business reputation in the industry and attract more consumers in the long run.”
Contractors are also encouraged to obtain the CaseTrust mark by CASE as an assurance to consumers that they are committed to fair trading and good business practices.
CaseTrust represents a whitelist of businesses who have been assessed by CASE to be reliable in their dealings with consumers.
Renovation businesses accredited under this scheme are required to use the CaseTrust Standard Renovation Contract which spells out pricing details and ensure accountability for listed deliverables in a renovation project.
Such businesses must also protect consumers’ prepayments via the purchase of a deposit performance bond which safeguards deposits against closure, winding up or liquidation before the renovation is completed.
“To protect their interests, consumers are advised to avoid making large sums of prepayment upfront, and to make payments progressively as each stage of the renovation work is completed,” said CASE president Melvin Yong.
CASE advised those who plan to engage interior design and renovation services to take note of the following:
- Research on the credibility and track record of the renovation contractor before signing the renovation contract. Insist on a written contract to protect your interests. The contract should state how work delays should be managed, and list an accurate description of goods and services to be delivered
- Negotiate for the deposit to be as low as possible and negotiate for progressive payment according to the project milestones
- Document outstanding renovation defects by taking photos. Ensure outstanding defects are fully rectified before making full payment. The photos can be used as supporting evidence in case of disputes
- Patronise CaseTrust accredited renovation contractors. Consumers may visit the CaseTrust website to check if a business is accredited. Consumers can also easily identify them by spotting the CaseTrust mark displayed at shopfronts and communication material of businesses
- More advice on engaging a renovation contractor is also available on the CASE website