Move to expose errant retailers

A significant change proposed to consumer protection laws could expose errant retailers, even if they close their shops and reopen them under a different name.

Once a court order has been taken up against them, they will no longer be able to sweep it under the carpet by reappearing in a new guise. Instead, they will be required to inform their customers about the court order - for instance, through a notice printed on invoices.

This measure is among those proposed to strengthen the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act. The exercise followed the outcry over the unethical practices of some stores at Sim Lim Square last year, where a Vietnamese tourist begging a shopkeeper for a refund was recorded in a video clip that went viral.

The move could also plug a loophole perennially exploited by errant retailers.

While the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) and the Singapore Tourism Board can take up court orders against such retailers, some of them have dodged penalties by closing their shops and reopening them under a different name.

Revealing the latest step proposed to counter this, Mr Teo Ser Luck, Minister of State for Trade and Industry, said yesterday: "This is not a deterrent to set up businesses but a deterrent to unfair practices."

He said errant retailers hurt Singapore's reputation as a place to shop. An agency within the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) will be appointed to work closely with Case to investigate and take action against recalcitrant shops, he said.

After a public consultation on the proposed measures, MTI aims to table a Bill in Parliament by the first quarter of next year.

This article was first published on July 21, 2015.
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