Stricter advertising rules on foreign properties, gold investments

Stricter advertising rules on foreign properties, gold investments

As the lure of overseas properties comes with higher risks, foreign developers trying to woo Singaporeans will face stricter advertising rules.

The Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (Asas) is working with the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Council for Estate Agencies to review Singapore's advertising code.

Under the proposed new regime, advertisers could be forced to disclose their financial position, the investment risks involved and whether development approvals have been obtained, The Straits Times understands.

Measures to deal with advertisers who repeatedly place misleading advertisements, said Asas chairman Tan Sze Wee, will also be toughened. It is considering levying fines for such cases.

The tougher rules will also apply to those who market investments in gold and other physical assets.

Currently, the code consists of general principles. It stipulates, for instance, that ads "should not mislead in any way by inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration, omission or otherwise".

The advertising watchdog flexes its muscles by getting media owners and various agencies to withhold ads that flout the rules. Last year, Asas received nine complaints against property ads, up from six in 2013.

The Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) received 13 complaints regarding foreign property purchases in 2013 and last year.

In one case, a consumer here invested in a property in the Philippines. He has paid more than $100,000 so far, but the firm has refused to update him about his investment.

Yesterday, Case also asked buyers here to exercise caution.

"Investing in an unfamiliar foreign market holds high risks... Some of these deals have turned sour when prices declined sharply, resulting in investors losing a large sum of their money," said Case president Lim Biow Chuan.

There have also been reported cases where the developers became insolvent and were unable to deliver the projects, he added.

Conveyancing lawyer Tan Seow Peer from Joseph Tan Jude Benny LLP advised buyers to do their research.

"Even if the aggrieved buyer succeeds in pursuing the matter in Singapore or international courts, if the sellers do not have assets or a presence in Singapore, it will just be a paper judgment," he said. "So enforcement of the court order may pose a problem, which means the buyer may not be able to recover his losses."

Mr Michael Yong, director of Funtasy Island Development, a local firm that markets homes on Pulau Manis, a cluster of six small islands 3km off Batam, said he received a call from Asas last week.

He said he supports the new rules as he does not want "black sheep to spoil the market", but pointed out that it has to apply to all foreign developers.

"We will follow it if it becomes an industry standard", he said.

Additional reporting by Toh Yong Chuan

This article was first published on May 5, 2015.
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