by Jared Heng
Singapore’s “lemon law” has been passed in parliament, the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) said in a statement on Friday.
“Lemon laws” are consumer-protection laws that provide remedies for consumers against latent defects in goods (colloquially known as “lemons”) that fail to meet standards of quality and performance, especially after repeated repair.
Specifically, Singapore’s “lemon law” comprises amendments to the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act, Hire Purchase Act and Road Traffic Act.
MTI said the amendments will make the transactional process between buyer and seller more open and transparent, with clearer rules on the burden of proof, and more certainty about the recourses available.
With Singapore’s “lemon law”, there are now additional remedies, such as repair and replacement, beyond just rejecting the goods and getting a refund.
This means the retailer may first offer to repair or replace the defective item within a reasonable period of time and without significant inconvenience to the buyer.
However, if this is not possible, the consumer may keep the defective item and ask for a partial refund, or return the defective item for a full refund.
The full refund amount will take into account the state of the good resulting from the consumer’s use.
If a defect is found within six months of delivery, it is assumed the defect existed at the time of delivery, and the lemon law provisions will apply, unless the retailer can prove otherwise. Another exception is if the item has a short life span or is consumable, such as food.
Beyond six months, the burden falls on the consumer to prove that the defect existed at the time of delivery.
With the “lemon law”, retailers are required to ensure that the goods they sell match their description or are fit for their purpose as marketed and promoted. Descriptions include information and details on the good that can be found on the label, packaging, posters or any other print material, or given verbally by the sales representatives.
MTI said retailers should also point out defects or limitations, if any, to the consumer before he or she buys the item. The retailer will not be held liable for defects that the consumer is proven to know about before he or she buys the goods.
To assist motor traders in defraying costs and encourage them to offer replacements for “lemon” vehicles, the Ministry of Transport and the Land Transport Authority have also proposed amendments to the Road Traffic Act.
The amendments would allow the transfer of the Additional Registration Fee
(ARF) and Certificate of Entitlement (COE) from a defective vehicle to a replacement vehicle, provided the defective vehicle meets a set of criteria.
MTI said Singapore’s “lemon law” is expected to come into force from September 1 this year to allow sufficient transition time for the industry.