Consumer Advisory - Wowmall: Consumers cautioned about misleading advertisements online
 

Between May to June 2018, the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) received seven complaints* from consumers against Wowmall, an online business (operating overseas), regarding the purchase of a watch that was drastically different from what was advertised online. Separately, the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS) received four feedback on the same matter.

The business had advertised the sale of a “Luminor 1950 Series PAM00441 Men’s Automatic Mechanical Watch”. However, consumers reported that the watch delivered was of a different brand and was a quartz watch. Furthermore, some consumers provided feedback that the watch was defective.

Advertised Watch Delivered Watch

In Singapore, ASAS regulates the advertising industry through the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice, which states that all advertisements should be legal, decent, honest and truthful. It is also an unfair practice under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act to make false or misleading claims in relation to a consumer transaction.

However, consumers should note the challenges in obtaining recourse against an entity operating outside of Singapore. For instance, they are unable to lodge such a claim at the Small Claims Tribunal.

In this case, affected consumers may consider contacting their logistics service provider for assistance in their refund request. They should provide relevant information such as the parcel’s tracking number, delivery date and address to the service provider. Consumers who are unable to resolve their dispute on their own can contact CASE at www.case.org.sg or 6100 0315 for further assistance.

Alternatively, consumers who had paid for the watch by credit card can approach their card issuing bank to lodge a chargeback if the watch received was not as described or defective. The request must be filed within 120 days from the date of transaction. Please refer to our Chargeback Guide for more information.

Meanwhile, consumers are advised to do their homework when viewing advertisements and buying goods or services from unknown online vendors. They can look up past reviews given by other consumers on independent websites or forums to verify the reliability of the online vendor in terms of product quality and service standards. Consumers should also ascertain the validity of the vendor’s contact information.

We encourage consumers who come across questionable advertisements or advertising practices to submit their feedback to ASAS at asas@case.org.sg or 6461 1888.

Consumer Advisory - Consumers have the right to say “no” when faced with pressure selling tactics
 

The Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) would like to warn consumers to be wary of pressure sales tactics that are commonly encountered in the slimming, beauty and hair industries. Consumers should be aware that they always have the right to say “no” to such tactics and can simply walk away if they feel uncomfortable.

The use of high pressure sales tactics has been a recurring problem in the slimming, beauty and hair industries for many years. The percentage of consumer complaints involving sales tactics for these industries is significantly higher as compared with the other industries, which generally record less than 5% of sales tactics complaints. In 2017, 44% of complaints for the slimming industry, 16% of complaints for the hair industry and 21% of complaints for the beauty industry involved sales tactics.

The exertion of undue pressure on a consumer to enter into a transaction involving goods or services is prohibited under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act (CPFTA) and consumers can seek recourse under it.

A list of some of the unacceptable sales tactics commonly encountered by consumers can be viewed below.

Barred from Leaving Salesperson(s) had expressly stated that the consumer could not leave the room and/or blocked the exit until he/she agreed to the purchase.
Consumer Disadvantage Salesperson(s) had placed the consumer in a disadvantaged position such as exerting pressure during treatment while the consumer was partially undressed and/or stopping a treatment halfway unless the consumer agreed to the purchase.
Consumer Consent Salesperson(s) did not seek the consumer’s express consent for the purchase. E.g. The staff had proceeded with the transaction and swiped the consumer’s credit card without his/her permission. The consumer had to sign the receipt as the staff refused to void the transaction.
Excessive Tenacity Salesperson(s) had coerced and followed the consumer to the bank/ATM machine to withdraw money. 
Mental Exhaustion Salesperson(s) had kept the consumer in the shop for excessively long hours to pressure him/her to make a purchase.
Withhold Belongings Salesperson(s) had refused to return the consumer’s personal belongings. E.g. The consumer’s personal belongings were kept aside in a locker or by the staff.

CASE has been stepping up our efforts to address the problem of pressure-selling in these industries. We have been actively encouraging businesses in these industries to voluntarily commit themselves to ethical business practices by signing up for CaseTrust accreditation. Accredited businesses are subjected to a rigorous audit to assess their conformance to the accreditation criteria, which includes price transparency, well-trained sales staff with ethical sales tactics and prepayment protection amongst others.

Meanwhile, consumers who plan to purchase slimming, beauty and/or hair products or services are advised to take note of the following tips:

  • Be cautious about entering a transaction with businesses which do not provide important documents such as invoices, sales agreements, terms and conditions, and package descriptions.
  • Make an informed decision by reviewing the agreement and its terms and conditions carefully. If necessary, ask for a copy of the agreement and go back to the shop on another day.
  • Do not be fooled by “special discount” or “one-time only” offers. There might be other similar products or services in the market that are selling at comparable prices. Take some time to research on the product or service.
  • Pay attention to your emotions. If you start to feel overwhelmed, uneasy or intimidated during the sales pitch, request to stop the session and leave the shop. Do not make any financial commitments to the staff under such circumstances.
  • Exercise your right and walk away from a dubious deal with unclear terms or “aggressive” sales tactics. Be polite but firm when stating your refusal. You can consider bringing a friend or family member along for additional assistance and/or call the police if you are not allowed to leave.
  • Ask if there is a cooling-off period for the package. For example, CaseTrust accredited spa and wellness businesses offer a five-day cooling-off period for consumers.
  • Consumers should note the risks of making prepayments as they may face difficulty in recovering their prepayments if the business closes down abruptly. Where possible, they should minimise the amount of prepayment made and use payment methods that afford prepayment protection.

Consumers who are interested to learn more about how to shop wisely for beauty-related products and services can drop by CASE’s consumer education fair “Beauty Matters” on 28 July 2018. Registration is free. More information can be found on our website at: https://www.case.org.sg/events.aspx.  

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