SHOPPERS should exercise their rights to prevent errant shopkeepers from bullying them into transactions, said the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case).
While the dishonest and aggressive sales tactics of some stores in electronics mall Sim Lim Square have been in the media spotlight and flamed online over the past week, consumers should themselves take precautions to ensure they do not fall prey to them.
Mr Seah Seng Choon, executive director of Case, said: "We hope that consumers will be able to stand firm and say 'no' to pressure sales tactics. Their money is in their wallet, and they can choose not to sign the sales agreement and pay the money."
Existing laws may have to be reviewed to deal with such cases, said Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin. In a Facebook post yesterday, he said the authorities should see how they can "strengthen or adjust" laws to deal with cases where individuals face hurdles to recourse.
"In some instances, the laws do not provide for particular actions and even if we may not like it, we can't go beyond the remits of the laws. So in these instances, we may have to review (them)."
Some incidents of overcharging occurred partly because shopkeepers concealed certain figures on receipts with their hands when showing them to customers, or added extra charges on invoices.
But the responsibility is also on customers to ensure that these invoices are clearly marked with the right figures, said Mr Seah.
For instance, they should examine their receipts closely by holding them in their own hands, instead of letting shopkeepers hold them or place them on a counter.
It is good practice to ask questions about what is printed on invoices - such as mathematical symbols like the multiplication sign - and what it represents.
Mr Seah said: "Consumers should exercise their rights to ensure all the costs are broken down before accepting the transaction.
If you do not have the invoice, it is your word against the retailer's and it is very difficult for organisations like Case to arbitrate."
According to Ms Kala Anandarajah, head of competition and anti-trust and trade for law firm Rajah and Tann, the onus falls on the consumer to ensure that he reads a contract in its entirety before signing, because once it is signed, it tends to be binding on both parties.
The Singapore Tourism Board also advised consumers to do the necessary to protect their interests, such as researching products and checking return policies and coverage of warranties, before agreeing to purchases.
Some consumers feel that while taking measures to prevent cheating is important, dishonest practices should be curtailed. Mr Ng Jian Min, 25, an engineer who does his research before shopping at Sim Lim Square, said: "Singapore should be a safe environment for everyone to shop in. I find it quite ridiculous that I should have to check my receipts so closely. There should be more severe laws to punish (errant) shops."
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