What Can I Do If a Shop Vendor Sells Me a Grossly Overpriced Product?

Last updated on February 1, 2024

“Psst! Want to buy an Apple Watch? Here you go, only $350! You want an in-house warranty and an additional watch strap to go with that? Here, I’ll also install it for you. That’ll cost you $1,000 in total. No-no-no, you can’t back out! You’ve already agreed!”

If the above scenario sounds familiar to you, you may have probably been the victim of a con-job, or, to put it more accurately, an unfair trade practice. However, fear not.

When you purchase a product from a retailer for personal use, you become what is known legally as a consumer, and you come under the insurance of Singapore’s consumer protection laws. Such laws can be found within legislation such as the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act (CPFTA).

 

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If you encounter such a situation, try to resolve the dispute with the seller directly first. If that fails, you can lodge a complaint with the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE)! ? – A complaint against the seller can be lodged with CASE on the grounds of “unfair practice”. Examples of unfair practices are listed in the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act. ? This includes charging a much higher price for a product (as compared to the estimate provided), making false claims, and taking advantage of buyers. It’s also possible to lodge a complaint with CASE if you were pressured into buying a product, or lied to about a product’s qualities! ?? – If the complaints are successful, victims may be able to return their purchase for a full refund. ? Alternatively, they may also sue the seller for restitution (i.e. return of wrongfully-paid money), but the legal costs involved may not be worth it. As a whole, if negotiations with the seller fail, it may be best to seek CASE’s help in enforcing your consumer rights. ?‍♀️ #SingaporeLegalAdvice

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What are Some Examples of Unfair Trade Practices?

Examples of unfair practices include:

1. Being sold a product at prices higher than the recommended retail price

The legality of such a practice depends on how much higher the actual price is compared to the recommended retail price.

For example, the recommended retail price for the latest model of a popular smartphone brand starts at S$700 but, as the name suggests, the price is only a suggested or recommended price. A retailer might choose to sell the product at a higher price instead to reap a higher profit, especially if the product is in high demand.

However, as stated in the Second Schedule of the CPFTA, charging a price substantially higher than the estimate provided is an unfair practice.

2. Being forced to honour a sale without the seller stating the final price beforehand

3. Being subjected to pressure tactics, and/or being lied to

The use of pressure tactics (i.e. hard-selling) to pressure the consumer into buying the item or a service just to stop them being harassed can constitute duress. In 2022, the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) commenced legal proceedings against Nail Palace, a nail salon with over 20 branches island wide, for having allegedly engaged in one or more unfair practices. This included a case where a Singaporean woman was charged over SG$11,000 after a visit to the salon. According to news reports, the bill included purchases for nine serum treatments and eight photo-dynamic therapy full sets, along with other treatments and products. The salon employees did not allow the customer to leave until she signed on to a package. When she stated that she was unable to afford the package, the staff allegedly coerced her into making monthly credit card instalments instead.

Lying about the qualities or features of a product may also constitute misrepresentation. Both practices may have the effect of voiding the sale transaction, i.e. the transaction being treated as if it never occurred in the first place. If so, the consumer may be entitled return the purchase in exchange for a full refund.

4. Being sold defective goods which turned out to be defective

Where a consumer has purchased a product which turns out to be defective, the consumer generally has the right to have it replaced or refunded under Singapore’s lemon laws.

5. Other unfair practices

Other unfair practices include deceiving, making false claims, and taking advantage of the consumer.

Options Available to Affected Consumers

If you encounter any unfair practice, your first course of action should be to try and resolve the dispute with the seller directly.

If that fails, you may wish to lodge a complaint with the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE).

Alternatively, you may also sue and claim restitution, amongst other remedies, in court. Restitution allows the aggrieved consumer to retrieve his money, which was wrongfully paid. If the amount you are claiming for is not more than $20,000, you may sue in the Small Claims Tribunals (SCT). (The claim amount may be raised to $30,000 if the seller agrees to have the case heard in the SCT.)

Ultimately, as a prudent consumer, it is highly recommended that you only patronise authorised or legitimate retailers to purchase your products and be aware of your rights as a consumer.

Legal and Contractual Rights When Making a Purchase
  1. Price Transparency Guidelines by CCCS (With Examples)
  2. Your Consumer Rights in Singapore and How to Get Recourse
  3. Can silence amount to acceptance of a contract?
  4. Unfair Contract Terms Act: UCTA in Singapore
  5. When Can I Void a Contract For Misrepresentation?
  6. Making Lemon Law Claims for Defective Items in Singapore
  7. Hire-Purchase Agreement: Your Rights and Repossession of Goods in Singapore
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  1. Consumer Rights in Singapore
  2. Buying a Car in Singapore: A Comprehensive Guide
  3. Disputes with Car Dealers: What Are My Options?
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