Singapore

Case to form panel to help S’poreans stretch their dollar

The Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) will form a panel to help address Singaporeans' cost of living concerns, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Trade and Industry Tan Wu Meng said yesterday.

The Consumer Empowerment Panel, to be convened next month, will work with associations, unions and grassroots leaders to help consumers stretch their dollar, he said during the debate on his ministry's budget.

He did not give details but, in response to queries on the panel, Case vice-president Melvin Yong said it aims to "engage and empower consumers to make informed purchasing decisions".

BALANCE

Promoting consumer awareness and empowerment is among the ways the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) aims to strengthen consumer protection, Dr Tan noted in his response to Mr Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten), who had asked if the powers of the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) could be broadened to enable it to deal more effectively with errant retailers.

He also said the Government will study Mr Lim's suggestion. "But there is also a need to balance consumers' interests with a pro-business environment."

Mr Lim, who is the president of Case, said that under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act (CPFTA), the CCCS may apply for an injunction to order a persistently errant business to cease an unfair practice.

Before doing so, however, it has to conduct an investigation and take statements from consumers, said Mr Lim.

"This process is quite tedious and not all consumers will want to spend their personal time giving statements to CCCS and appearing in court as witnesses," he said.

Mr Lim asked if the CPFTA could be amended to give the CCCS the option to impose financial penalties on such retailers.

MTI told The Straits Times that it is looking at the possibility of widening enforcement options for the CCCS to include administrative penalties for suppliers that infringe the Act, as suggested by Mr Lim.

CONSUMER ISSUES