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    Mar 14, 2016

    Buyers rev up complaints about used cars

    CARS have topped the consumer's grouse list yet again.

    The motorcar industry remained the top source of complaints for the fourth year in a row, according to statistics released by the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) yesterday.

    Complaints against the sector shot up 37.6 per cent last year to 2,907, with the majority of people unhappy over buying second-hand cars with defects, Case said.

    About seven in 10 cases the association handled involved used cars.

    Things were looking up, however, for timeshare companies, as the industry dropped out of the top 10 most complained about list for the first time in over a decade.

    Timeshare quibbles fell from 869 in 2014 to 536 last year, a decrease of 38.3 per cent. The consumer watchdog attributed this to its efforts in tackling errant companies, including taking out injunctions against several players in recent years.

    Rounding up the top three sectors with most complaints were electronics with 1,668 and beauty with 1,664, though both saw a slight dip over the previous year.

    Several other sectors also saw a fall in grouses, including travel and mobile phones.

    Entering the top 10 list for the first time was the clubs sector, with 623 reports lodged. About 90 per cent of these were against fitness clubs and mostly related to membership termination issues, Case said.

    Overall, consumer complaints received by Case fell by 9.7 per cent to 22,319, though the number of filed cases went up 45.3 per cent to 2,006 last year. In filed cases, the consumer authorises Case to handle the dispute on their behalf.

    The statistics were released at a carnival held by Case at Chinatown Point yesterday to celebrate World Consumer Rights Day, as well as Case's 45th anniversary.

    Case president Lim Biow Chuan said better consumer education and legislation has led to an overall drop in complaints and an increase in filed cases. "The lemon law has empowered consumers to feel that if I have a basis for my complaint, then I want Case to help push for my rights," he noted.

    The "lemon law" is an amendment to the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act and the Hire Purchase Act that requires retailers to repair or replace a product found to be defective within six months of purchase or give a refund.

    Mr Lim, who is also Deputy Speaker of Parliament and MP for Mountbatten, said the long-troubled timeshare industry falling out of the top 10 complaint rankings was a cause for celebration.

    The increase in motorcar grouses, however, is of concern, he added.

    Noting that most complaints are related to second-hand cars, he said: "The reality is that second-hand cars are not so straightforward.

    "A lot depends on the age of the car and the expectations of the buyer.

    "So, we are still exploring with the Singapore Vehicle Traders Association (SVTA) to see what we can do to bring complaints down."

    SVTA president Michael Lim agreed, and said the association, which counts about 400 used-car dealers as members, is working with Case on education efforts for car buyers.

    "We need to let people know what the lemon law is, what a warranty is and the importance of sending cars for inspection before buying," he added.