Victim of Hard Selling Sales Tactics in Singapore: What to Do
“Do you want to consider getting our package instead? The cost per session is much cheaper and you’ll get more savings if you sign up now. Hurry, because today is the last day that we are extending this discount for our packages.”
Does this sound familiar to you?
As a consumer, we have undoubtedly experienced aggressive sales tactics, or hard selling, or have heard about similar experiences from family members or friends. Hard selling has also increasingly come under the spotlight in recent years, with local media highlighting cases of individuals who have fallen victim to hard selling tactics employed by beauty and wellness service providers, causing them to spend thousands of dollars as a result.
This article sets out to explain what you need to know, including available avenues for recourse, if you have been a victim of hard selling in Singapore. It will cover:
- What is hard selling
- Whether hard selling is an offence in Singapore
- Whether you can get a refund if you’ve been pressured into buying a product because of hard selling
- What to do if someone hard sells their products to you
- Measures to take to avoid becoming a victim of hard selling
What is Hard Selling?
Hard selling refers to the use of direct or aggressive tactics to sell a product or a service to a customer or client as quickly as possible. By hard selling, the salesperson typically puts a high level of pressure or sense of urgency on the consumer or client to purchase that product or service as soon as possible.
Below is a common example of hard selling:
B works as a sales representative for a luxury furniture store and receives a commission for every sale that B makes. A customer, M, comes into the store and B showcases the latest collection of furniture to M. M, however, is reluctant to make a purchase due to the high prices of the products.
B tries hard selling a piece of furniture by highlighting its features, quality, and product warranty. She also persuades M by informing M that the store is offering a significant discount on the furniture as a limited-period offer. M finally agrees to purchase one of the furniture items, and B earns their commission from the sale.
Is Hard Selling an Offence in Singapore?
While hard selling is by itself not an offence, persons may still be sued for hard selling and/or be penalised for related offences.
For one, hard selling is considered an “unfair practice” under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act (CPFTA).
The CPFTA seeks to protect consumers in Singapore against unfair practices, which includes hard selling. Under this legislation, a consumer may sue a retailer or business that engages in unfair practices to obtain a refund or other compensatory remedies. This is elaborated on in further detail below.
In some instances, hard selling can also amount to harassment, which is an offence under the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA).
If a salesperson uses any threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour that causes distress to the consumer – for example, continuing to contact the consumer about a product even after being told not to do so – this is harassment and is an offence. Offenders may be liable to a fine of up to $5,000 and/or imprisonment for a term of up to 6 months.
I’ve been Pressured Into Buying a Product Because of Hard Selling. Can I Get a Refund?
For products purchased under a direct sales contract
If you purchased the product under a regulated contract, such as a direct sales contract, you generally have the right to cancel the contract and receive a refund within 5 working days from when you had entered into the contract.
This avenue for recourse is provided for under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) (Cancellation of Contracts) Regulations 2009. More information on cancelling a direct sales contract is provided below.
A direct sales contract refers to contracts or sales transactions that are entered into between the seller and the consumer during an unsolicited visit by the seller to:
- The consumer’s place of residence;
- The place of residence of another person; or
- The place of business of the consumer.
For example, a company holds a roadshow at a shopping mall selling cleaning appliances. They offer you a free gift and obtain your contact details, which they use to make an unsolicited visit to your home for a product demonstration. If you allow them into your home to carry out the product demonstration, they may then refuse to leave until you agree to buy their product.
Direct sales contracts also refer to contracts or sales transactions that take place when you, as the consumer, have expressly requested for the seller/retailer to visit your home for a demonstration, but the goods or services that are being promoted are not those that you had requested or did not know formed part of the seller’s business.
For products purchased in general
For purchases or transactions that are entered into between the seller and consumer at the seller’s premises or place of business, e.g. in a shopping mall, you can sue the seller or retailer for engaging in an unfair practice under the CPFTA, and seek a refund. The procedure for doing so is discussed in further detail below.
What Can I Do If Someone Hard Sells Their Products to Me?
If you have purchased a product as a result of hard selling, it is important to retain copies of any receipts, contracts, or agreements that you might have signed as proof of the purchase.
If possible, note down the details of the seller/retailer and the time and date on which the purchase had been made for record-keeping purposes. You might need these details and information should you wish to take action against the seller or retailer, as set out below:
Give notice to cancel the contract (for direct sales contracts only)
To cancel a direct sales contract, you are required to give the seller or retailer notice of the cancellation within 5 working days of the date on which you entered into the contract. If your cancellation request is accepted, you will receive a refund.
You can give notice either by using this form, or by stating your intention to cancel the contract in writing. The notice must then be delivered to the seller or retailer (either in person, or by post). However, if the seller/retailer agrees to accept the notice of cancellation by any additional means, including electronic means (e.g. by email), then the notice may be given through such means.
Once the seller or retailer receives the notice, they will be required to issue the refund within 60 days after the notice has been given.
If the seller or retailer refuses to honour your cancellation request, you may wish to consider filing a complaint with the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE), or suing the seller or retailer in the Small Claims Tribunals (see below).
Lodge a complaint with CASE
When you approach CASE for assistance, CASE can assist in reaching out to the seller or retailer on your behalf to negotiate the matter with a view to reaching an amicable resolution.
If the matter cannot be resolved through negotiation, CASE officers will advise you on the next course of action that you can take, such as mediation. If you and the seller or retailer are agreeable to mediation, CASE will assist with arranging for a session to explore options to resolve the matter.
If you are unable to resolve the matter with CASE’s assistance, then you may wish to consider suing the seller or retailer in the Small Claims Tribunals for engaging in an unfair practice.
Sue for unfair practice in the Small Claims Tribunals
Under the CPFTA, you can lodge a claim against the seller/retailer with the Small Claims Tribunals. The Small Claims Tribunals may make an award of either a refund or damages for any losses that you might have suffered as a result of the hard selling.
Do note that the Small Claims Tribunals can hear only claims that do not exceed a total value of S$20,000. However, the limit can be raised to S$30,000 if both the parties to the claim have consented to do so.
Do also note that lawyers are not allowed to represent parties in proceedings before the Small Claims Tribunals. Both parties – you as the consumer and the other party being the seller/retailer – will need to present your cases before a Registrar and the Tribunal may make an award (e.g., a refund) as a result of the hard selling.
You may refer to our other article for more information on filing a claim at the Small Claims Tribunals.
Make a police report or file for a Protection Order (PO) if you have been harassed
If a salesperson engages in harassing conduct or behaviour, i.e. uses words that are threatening, abusive or insulting and causes you distress, you may make a police report against that person. This is because such conduct can constitute harassment and is an offence under the POHA, as mentioned above.
Alternatively, you can file for a Protection Order (PO) against that person. When a PO is granted, it will be served on the harassing party (e.g. the salesperson) and he/she will be ordered to stop the harassing behaviour. If the harassing behaviour continues, this will amount to a breach of the PO which is a criminal offence. Anyone who breaches a PO can face a fine of up to S$5,000 and/or a term of imprisonment of up to 6 months.
For more information on filing for a Protection Order under the POHA, please refer to our other article.
Sue, or make a police report for trespass if the salesperson is refusing to leave your premises
If a salesperson is at your premises (e.g. your home) and refuses to leave despite you having clearly and expressly asked him/her to do so, you can sue that salesperson for trespassing on your property. This is the case even if the salesperson had lawfully entered your property at the very start, i.e. you had given them permission to enter your property at the start.
The salesperson in question may also be liable for committing the offence of criminal trespass if he or she unlawfully remains at your property with the intention to intimidate, insult or annoy you.
Individuals who are found guilty of committing criminal trespass face imprisonment for a term of up to 3 months, and/or a fine of up to S$1,500.
For more on the offence of criminal trespass, you may refer to our other article.
What Measures Can I Take to Avoid Becoming a Victim of Hard Selling?
If you have been a victim of hard selling before, you will want to take steps to avoid ending up in a similar situation again. Here are some measures that you can take as a consumer to protect yourself:
- Before making a big-ticket item purchase (e.g. luxury items like jewellery or high-end electronic gadgets), ask for some time to decide before making the purchase. Most retailers would oblige and give you time to decide but if they are especially persistent, this is a red flag that they may be desperate to make a sale and may hence be more likely to resort to hard selling tactics.
- Do not be pressured into signing any contract or agreement with the retailer or vendor on the spot. If you are pushed to sign a contract or agreement for a package of services, for example, refrain from doing so, even if you are put on the spot. Be sure to ask someone you trust to review the contract/agreement before you put your signature on it.
- Ask as many questions as necessary about the product or service being sold to you, especially if what is being offered seems dubious or too good to be true. A salesperson who is there to simply push for a sale and has little knowledge about the product or service might be hesitant or unable to answer your questions, and more inclined to leave you alone as a result (instead of trying to hard sell you).
- Finally, do not be afraid to be firm and say no. Hard selling tactics are meant to wear you out to eventually purchase the item or service being sold. Stand your ground, say no, and walk away. Remember that it is well within your rights as a consumer to do so.
Hard selling tactics continue to be prevalent, and many consumers have unfortunately fallen victim to such tactics, resulting in significant monetary losses. It is important for consumers to be aware of their rights and take the necessary steps to ensure that they do not fall victim to hard selling tactics.
If you have been a victim of hard selling, there are various avenues of recourse available under Singapore law. However, if your case is particularly serious, involves a complex transaction and/or has resulted in significant losses to you and you wish to file a civil suit, it is advisable to engage a lawyer for further advice. A lawyer would be able to shed light on your options and the best approach for you to adopt if you are seeking legal recourse under such circumstances.
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