by Donavan Lim, Ernie Calucag
Six months after its passage in Parliament, Singapore’s Lemon Law, designed to create a more harmonious relationship between consumers and retailers, will finally take effect September 1, bringing with it more options of recourse for both consumers and retailers.
Lemon laws refer to laws protecting consumers against defective goods that fail to conform to contract, or meet satisfactory quality or performance standards at the time of purchase, colloquially known as “lemons”.
It comprises amendments to the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act (CPFTA), the Hire Purchase Act (HPA) and Road Traffic Act and covers all general consumer products purchased in Singapore.
Passed in Parliament on 9 March 2012, 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 the new Lemon Law, consumers and retailers now have more options of recourse for defective goods. I encourage everyone to familiarise themselves with the provisions under the Law. At the same time, we also want to ensure that businesses are not subject to frivolous claims and that limitations and safeguards are in place,” said Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck, who visited home furnishing retailer IKEA as it geared up for the changes.
The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) urges consumers and retailers to refer to the Lemon Law Consumer Guides prepared by Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE), Trade Associations and MTI to better understand the recourse available and limitations under the Law.
“The new provisions will improve the consumer-retailer relationship and the overall retail experience in Singapore as businesses improve their sales and service processes, while consumers are more aware of options for fair recourse,” added Mr Teo.
Since the bill was passed in Parliament, various outreach activities, including roadshows, seminars and new educational collaterals, have been prepared and organised to help both consumers and retailers better understand the new Lemon Law and its two-stage recourse framework.
In the first stage, the retailer may offer to repair or replace the defective good within a reasonable period of time and without significant inconvenience to the buyer. If this is not possible, comes the second stage, in which the consumer may either keep the item and get a partial refund, or return the item and get a full refund.
The full refund amount will take into account the state of the good resulting from the consumer’s use.
The Lemon Law will apply to defects found in goods up to the first six months, with the assumption that the defect already existed at the time of delivery, unless the retailer can prove otherwise or if the items have a short life span or consumable.
CASE President Lim Biow Chuan said, “We believe the clearer options provided for in the lemon provisions of the Consumer Fair Trading Act will benefit both consumers and retailers as disputes relating to defective goods can be more speedily resolved.”
On the part of retailers, Singapore Retailers Association (SRA) Executive Director Lau Chuen Wei affirmed that the SRA always advocates professionalism amongst its members, and encourages them to have the interests of their customers at heart.
“It is hoped that such legislation will pave the way for both retailers and customers to act even more responsibly, to be accountable to themselves as well as to others, making the shopping experience an enjoyable one for one and all.”