CASE registration counter at Sim LimAn agency with the power to investigate and take action against errant retailers has been proposed as part of amendments that will be made to the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act (CPFTA), said Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck on Monday, 20 July.

Part of the agency’s arsenal include measures to counter crooked merchants set up a new shop to escape a bad reputation, and other bad sale practices.

The move comes in the long trail of the Sim Lim case where a Vietnamese tourist was allegedly cheated by merchant Mobile Air when purchasing a mobile phone.

However, it is not clear how effective the new agency will be, given that CASE, supposedly the existing consumer protection watchdog, has been unable to take up cases against errant merchants.

Mr Teo said that the new agency would coordinate efforts with the existing Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) to take action against errant retailers.

Sim Lim Square wideComplaints would still go to Singapore’s consumer watchdog agency first and CASE would then sift out more serious cases for the new agency to take up.

The plan is for CASE to remain the first point of contact for consumers to file complaints.

“When you take up such a case, it is actually very intrusive,” he said to media. “You have to gather evidence and after that, you have to enforce it, and you apply for injunction. Any injunction order you apply you need evidence and that’s exactly what the agency will do. That’s not something CASE has been doing so far.”

The new agency will be under the purview of  the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) and will have investigative and enforcement powers to help CASE.

“The agency would put in criminal sanctions if the recalcitrant retailers don’t want to pull up their socks and engage in fair practices,” said CASE executive director Seah Seng Choon. “It will certainly make retailers think twice before they engage in such unfair practices.”

Public consultations on the proposed changes to CPFTA are expected to be conducted in the next few months, and amendments could be tabled in Parliament by the first quarter of next year.

Adapted from media reports.

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