No rest for Singapore's consumer champion

No rest for Singapore's consumer champion
Even when off duty, Mr Seah is ready to sniff out mischief. When he shops, he goes by these safeguards: Always read the labels, get traders' contact details, ask for how to get a refund and put guarantees in writing. -- ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

You could say that Mr Seah Seng Choon, executive director of the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case), takes his work home.

Once, while walking past a provision shop in Woodlands, the 60-year-old spied a bloated carton of expired milk and gave the shopkeeper an earful. A subsequent check found the dubious item taken off the shelves.

Another time, a taxi driver took him on a meandering $18 ride from Tanjong Pagar to Shangri-La Hotel where he was to give a talk.

"I told him, you are a bad driver. You are spoiling Singapore's reputation. I scolded him all the way," said the usually soft-spoken man who paid the cabby $6 and made a report to the taxi company.

Fighting for the consumer is what he does at work - a 9am to 7pm job - which involves dishing out advice to distraught consumers, urging merchant associations to rein in errant members and writing to businesses to ask them to play fair.

The job has grown more demanding over the years too, as consumers become more aware of their rights.

The association attended to a total of 25,733 consumer complaints last year, up 16 per cent from 2011. It helped to resolve almost three-quarters of the cases, and assisted consumers in recovering $3.3 million in total.

Mr Seah, a father of three, is on hyper-alert mode even when he is off-duty, always ready to sniff out even a hint of mischief.

When he shops, he goes by a list of shopping "safeguards": Always read product labels, get the trader's contact details, ask for how to get a refund and put guarantees down in writing.

Although most well known for his role at Case, he is also president of the Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Skills Training and sits on seven other committees, including the Genetic Modification Advisory Committee and the Council for Estate Agencies.

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