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Lemon Law? Of course, I know Lemon, lor!

Many retailers unaware of new consumer protection law. -TNP
Ng Ee Ching & Nathaniel Fetalvero

Sun, Sep 09, 2012
The New Paper

Blank stares, shoulder-shrugging and misinformation.

These were what greeted The New Paper team on Tuesday when we tested how much sales staff in Orchard Road stores and heartland malls knew about what is known as the "lemon law".

One thought it referred to a jewellery box, others had never heard of it, and one even accused us of lying.

The "lemon law" was passed by Parliament in March and took effect on Saturday.

Under it, sellers are obliged to repair, replace or refund the cost of defective goods reported within six months of delivery.

However, observers have commented that small enterprises may have a more difficult time coping with the law due to a lack of resources.

At four of the six stores in Orchard Road, staff had no clue about the new law.

When TNP asked a salesgirl from local retail store 77th Street at Ion Orchard if the law would protect our consumer rights if we bought a charm bracelet, she presented a small box to us, thinking the "lemon law" was a type of packaging.

Founder of 77th Street, Ms Elim Chew, 46, was among the few from management who responded when TNP told them about what happened at their stores.

She said: "Our store managers briefed them about the 'lemon law' on Thursday.

"This slight delay was due to the setting up of certain procedures in response to the law. The procedures are in place now."

Another salesgirl from a stationery store, also at Ion, said: "Lemon what? Lemon law? What's that?"

She then directed the reporter to her store manager, who also had no clue what the new law was about.

Of the 14 stores approached in heartland malls, only five had employees who knew of the law, but they were unclear about its specifics.

What was worrying was the manner in which some employees reacted to a potential customer when the law was explained to them.

Before a TNP reporter identified himself, an employee from a clothing store in Ang Mo Kio shopping mall, AMK Hub, accused him of lying after he had explained to her that the law allowed customers to exchange defective products over a six-month period.

She said: "Don't lie."

No refunds

She insisted their exchange policy was only valid for a week and that they did not give refunds.

When TNP contacted the store's head office, its managing director said that abiding by the new law was not that simple.

He said: "If they come back in a few months for a refund or exchange, we will just tell them that we cannot give it to them even if the law says so because it's just not practical.

"Fashion styles come and go too quickly. The maximum we can give is two weeks."

Of all the stores we visited, both in town and in the heartlands, one store stood out.

Staff at Stereo, a concept store that sells headphones at Ion Orchard, were trained on dealing with the law.

When our reporter asked a salesgirl if a pair of earphones that cost $29.90 would still be protected by the "lemon law", she carefully explained the process on how to get a repair and refund.

She also reminded the reporter that the period to do so was six months.

Its manager, Mr Aron Tan, 33, said they had raised several concerns with the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) before the law was passed.

He said: "We are very concerned because replace and refund policies used to be decided on a case-by-case basis. But now, it is compulsory."

Stereo also has a fund put aside to pay customers who want a refund.

Mr Tan declined to reveal how big this fund was.

Mr Tan's other concern was the law gave more power and rights to unreasonable customers.

He said: "I previously had a customer who swam with his earphones and demanded an exchange. He said that my staff did not let him know the earphones were not waterproof."

The customer got an exchange in the end.


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