Reply to TODAY forum letter on Misleading e-Commerce Ads

Misleading e-commerce ads: CCCS developing guidelines on price transparency

We thank Mr Francis Cheng Choon Fei for his feedback in his letter ("Scrutinise e-commerce sites that mislead users into making purchases"; Aug 20).

Under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act, it is an unfair practice for a supplier to mislead, make a false claim or take advantage of a consumer if the supplier knows that the consumer is: 

  • not in a position to protect his own interests 
  • not reasonably able to understand the transaction or any matter related to it.

The way suppliers display prices can influence consumers’ decisions. Hence, displaying accurate prices fully and clearly upfront is necessary for consumers to make well-informed purchasing decisions.

Recognising the importance of the digital economy and the growth of e-commerce, the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) recently conducted a study on the online provision of bookings for flight tickets and hotel accommodation to Singapore consumers. 

The study examined various business practices adopted by the industry players, and the associated competition and consumer issues, including misleading prices displayed by suppliers.

Following on from the study, CCCS is developing a set of guidelines on price transparency which will contain the “dos and don’ts” for suppliers relating to various pricing practices such as time-limited discounts, free offers and price comparisons. 

By educating suppliers on when pricing practices may be potentially misleading, CCCS expects such practices to be reduced over time, thereby enabling consumers to shop confidently. 

CCCS will be releasing details of the study as well as conducting a public consultation on the guidelines over the course of the next few months. 

If consumers encounter suppliers who engage in unfair practices, they can approach the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) as the first point of contact to assist them in seeking redress through negotiation and/or mediation. 

Case may also invite the suppliers involved to enter into voluntary compliance agreements to end their unfair practices. Errant suppliers who persist in unfair practices will be referred to CCCS for investigation.