Frequently Asked Questions

Scope of the Consumer Protection Fair Trading Act

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1. What is the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act or CPFTA?

The Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act or CPFTA was designed to empower consumers to seek civil redress against unfair trade practices in Singapore.

2. What constitutes an unfair practice?

According to Section 4 of the CPFTA, it is an unfair practice for the supplier, in relation to a consumer transaction:

  • To do or say anything, or omit to do or say anything, if as a result, a consumer might reasonably be deceived or misled;
  • To make a false claim;
  • To take advantage of a consumer if the supplier knows or ought reasonably to know that the consumer:
    • Is not in a position to protect his own interests. Eg, if the consumer is mentally handicapped;
    • Is not reasonably able to understand the character, nature, language or effect of the transaction or any matter related to the transaction; or
  • To commit any of the unfair practices specified in the Second Schedule of the CPFTA.

3. What are some examples of goods and services that are not covered under the CPFTA?

Some examples include:

  • Business-to-business dealings;
  • Sale and purchase of property (only claims against real estate agents for services rendered are covered); and
  • Contracts of employment.

4. When will CCCS investigate and act against a company?

Under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act (“CPFTA”), CCCS can take enforcement action against errant suppliers who persist in unfair practices. An unfair practice can be a misrepresentation or false claim made on the goods or services provided.

CCCS will only take on cases of persistently errant suppliers who engage in unfair business practices, but not criminal matters. These cases are escalated by the first points of contact, i.e. CASE and STB, should further investigation and enforcement action be necessary.

5. What are the penalties for non-cooperation with CCCS’s investigations/enforcements?

If the supplier under injunction does not comply with the injunction order, CCCS can take the supplier to court for contempt of court. This is a criminal offence which could result in a fine and/or imprisonment.

A person who refuses to provide information, destroy/falsify documents, provide false/misleading information and/or obstruct an officer conducting the investigation/enforcement could be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $10,000 or imprisonment not exceeding one year or to both.

6. Can consumers go directly to CCCS to obtain redress/compensation?

CASE/STB remain the first points of contact for local consumers and tourists respectively. They have readily available channels, such as online feedback forms, through which local consumers and tourists can obtain assistance. CASE/STB will assist them to obtain redress/compensation by negotiating with the supplier and/or facilitating mediation between parties. Local consumers/tourists can also approach the Small Claims Tribunal ("SCT") for claims of up to $20,000 (or $30,000 should both parties agree). Alternatively, the CPFTA provides consumers with the right to sue suppliers for engaging in unfair practices. This includes seeking monetary redress or other remedies/relief.

CCCS’s role is to

a) Gather evidence against persistent errant retailers;

b) File timely injunction applications with the courts against persistent errant retailers; and

c) Enforce compliance with injunction orders issued by the courts.

7. How do I lodge a complaint against an errant supplier for unfair trade practice?

Tourist

You may wish to call the Tourist Information Hotline at 1800-7362-000 or contact the Consumers Association of Singapore (“CASE”) at +65 6100 0315 (in Singapore) / +65 6736 2000 (from overseas). Alternatively, you may also email CASE at admin@case.org.sg.

Supplier

As a supplier, some of the issues that you may encounter with another supplier include:

  • A supplier misleadingly using your company’s name;
  • A supplier failing to fulfil his part of the contract;
  • A supplier failing to deliver goods; and
  • A supplier providing defective goods.

However, you may wish to note that the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act (“CPFTA”) only extends to business-to-consumer transactions. The CPFTA does not extend to business-to-business transactions. You may wish to seek your own legal advice or bring your case to the Small Claims Tribunal (“SCT”). More information on bringing a case to the SCT can be found at www.statecourts.gov.sg/SmallClaims/Pages/GeneralInformation.aspx.

Consumer

Under the CPFTA, the Consumers Association of Singapore (“CASE”) and Singapore Tourism Board (“STB”) are the first points of contact for consumer complaints. CASE will assist aggrieved consumers to obtain redress, and in some cases, compensation through negotiation and/or mediation. CASE may also engage the errant suppliers to warn them and/or enter into a Voluntary Compliance Agreement (“VCA”) where the errant suppliers agree in writing to stop the unfair practice, and in some cases, compensate affected consumers.

Some issues that CASE may be able to assist you in, include:

  • Redress (e.g. refund, repair, or replacement);
  • Non-delivery of goods;
  • Damaged goods;
  • Supplier has been uncontactable;
  • Dispute with supplier; and
  • Witnessing an unfair practice being committed

On the other hand, CCCS takes enforcement actions against errant suppliers who persist in unfair trade practices under the CPFTA. As such, you may wish to note that CCCS does not assist consumers in obtaining redress.

You may seek CASE’s assistance in relation to a business-to-consumer transaction via the following channels:

  1. Phone assistance
    6100 0315 (Monday - Friday, 9am to 4pm)

  2. Online submission
    https://www.case.org.sg/complaint_onlinecomplaint.aspx

  3. Email
    admin@case.org.sg

  4. In-Person
    170 Ghim Moh Road #05-01, Ulu Pandan Community Building, Singapore 279621

When approaching CASE, please ensure that you have supporting documents such as copies of correspondences, receipts, invoices and delivery orders. In addition, you may also wish to note that a consumer needs to be a CASE member in order to establish a relationship for CASE to represent the consumer and act on his/her behalf in dispute resolution. CASE offers an administration fee waiver if consumers are a member of a Trade Union or Association that is a CASE institutional Member, an NTUC Income Insurance Policy holder, or, a PAssion Card holder.

Alternatively, consumers can also consider filing a claim at the Small Claims Tribunal (“SCT”). The CPFTA provides consumers with the right to sue suppliers for engaging in unfair practices. More information on bringing a case to the SCT can be found at www.statecourts.gov.sg/SmallClaims/Pages/GeneralInformation.aspx.

8. What should I do if I have been cheated or have been a victim of a scam?

Should you suspect that there is a criminal act involved, you may consider lodging a police report with the Singapore Police Force (“SPF”) at the nearest police station or online at www.eservices.police.gov.sg/content/policehubhome/homepage/police-report.html, using your SingPass.

If you are based overseas or a foreigner who do not have a SingPass account, you may provide your feedback to SPF at www.police.gov.sg/iwitness.

9. How do I file a claim at the Small Claims Tribunal (“SCT”)?

More information on bringing a case to the SCT can be found at www.statecourts.gov.sg/SmallClaims/Pages/GeneralInformation.aspx.

10. What should I do if I am a supplier or employee, who has evidence of an unfair practice committed by another supplier or my employer?

Under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act (“CPFTA”), a supplier should not engage in unfair practice(s). An unfair practice is a misleading representation or false claim on the provision of goods or services in relation to a business-to-consumer transaction. The CPFTA does not extend to business-to-business transactions.

If you have information and evidence that a supplier has committed an unfair practice in relation to a business-to-consumer transaction, you may contact CCCS via the feedback form or email cccs_feedback@cccs.gov.sg.

More information on the CPFTA and unfair practices can be found at http://www.cccs.gov.sg/about-cccs/what-we-do/cccs-and-the-consumer-protection-fair-trading-act

11. Can I seek assistance or advice on the legal interpretation of the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act (“CPFTA”)?

As the administering agency of the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act (“CPFTA”), it is not appropriate for CCCS to advise you on the application of the law. You may wish to seek your own legal advice.

12. How does the consumer protection policy/regime work in Singapore?

Background

The Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act (“CPFTA”) recognises that

  • Consumers often lack the expertise or resources to protect themselves against egregious suppliers engaging in unfair practices;
  • Majority of the suppliers in Singapore are law abiding and seek to transact with consumers legitimately, while only the minority would engage in unfair practices;
  • Any potential regulatory costs may be passed on to consumers; and
  • Unethical conduct of sufficient seriousness that may warrant criminal sanctions such as false labelling, unlawful confinement, touting, intimidation and cheating have already been criminalised in existing legislation such as the Consumer Protection (Trade Descriptions and Safety Requirements) Act, the Penal Code and the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act.

Therefore, the CPFTA was designed to empower consumers, promote self-reliance and encourage greater consumer responsibility and pro-activity. Under the CPFTA, consumers encountering unfair practices will be empowered to obtain civil remedies by themselves, without relying on or waiting for the Government. The CPFTA holds suppliers accountable for unfair practices by making them liable for civil restitution.

Framework

Under the CPFTA, the Consumers Association of Singapore (“CASE”) and Singapore Tourism Board (“STB”) are the first points of contact for consumers. This means that they would assist consumers with complaints and feedback, engage suppliers to address consumers’ concerns regarding unfair practices, and may also obtain compensation through negotiations, mediation and/or a Voluntary Compliance Agreement (“VCA”). VCA is one of the levers that can be used to stop errant suppliers from continuing with the unfair practice(s). As the first points of contact, the agencies also play the advocacy role in educating consumers and raising awareness on consumer rights.

In the event that a supplier persistently engages in unfair practices, CASE/STB may refer the supplier to CCCS for non-criminal infringements or to the Police in a criminal case.

As an administering agency of the CPFTA, CCCS investigates egregious suppliers surfaced by CASE and STB, applies to the Courts for injunction orders against suppliers for conducting unfair practices, and ensures that suppliers comply with their injunction orders. A breach of an injunction order is a criminal offence which could result in a fine and/or imprisonment.

13. Are suppliers allowed to charge a very high price for non-essential goods?

CCCS does not regulate prices and businesses may set different prices for their products due to reasons including differences in costs and consumer demand. Consumers can choose to patronise businesses which offer competitive prices and choose products that cater to their consumption preferences.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry (“MTI”) however, may through the Price Control Act control prices of essential goods. An example would be the Rice Stockpile Scheme (www.enterprisesg.gov.sg/e-services/rice-stockpile-scheme/rice-stockpile-scheme). More information on the Act can be found at https://sso.agc.gov.sg/Act/PCA1950.

More information on contacting MTI can be found at www.mti.gov.sg/Feedback. Alternatively, MTI can be reached via email at MTI_Email@mti.gov.sg.

If you are unable to find an answer to your query, please submit your Feedback to let us know how we can help you.