Consumer Advisory – CASE advises consumers to be wary of making payments to Global ATC.
 

The Consumers Association of Singapore (“CASE”) would like to advise consumers to be wary should they receive invoices from Global ATC Holding Pte Ltd ("Global ATC") claiming to be acting for Asian Travel Club Pte Ltd ("ATC").

 

Background

From 1 November 2019 to 31 May 2020, CASE has received 69 complaints from consumers on Global ATC demanding payments for outstanding timeshare membership fees and/or maintenance fees allegedly owed to ATC. In most cases, the consumers received demand for payment despite having formally terminated their memberships. The payment amount stated on the invoices ranges from $320 to $23,800.

 

Additionally, some consumers complained that they had not been informed by ATC or Global ATC on how to use their timeshare agreements and/or had failed to receive any services or monies under their timeshare or time-related agreements.

 

Engagement with Global ATC

In response to consumer complaints, CASE had engaged Global ATC to understand their legal basis to demand payment for outstanding fees allegedly owed to ATC. Global ATC informed CASE that they had been instructed by ATC to receive the outstanding fees, but had failed to provide any supporting information or legal basis to substantiate their claims despite being asked to do so since March 2020.

CASE has informed Global ATC that it was to cease contacting consumers to demand for outstanding fees allegedly owed to ATC and make restitution to consumers who had made payments. As Global ATC has not provided any legal basis to substantiate their claims, consumers are advised to be wary of the risks involved if they were to make payments to Global ATC.  

CASE will monitor this closely and will not hesitate to take the necessary action provided for under CPFTA, which includes referring the matter to the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) to protect the interests of consumers.

Consumers who have received demand for payment from Global ATC despite having formally terminated their memberships with ATC may approach CASE for assistance.

 

Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act

Under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act (“CPFTA”), it is an unfair practice for suppliers to purport to assert a right to payment for the supply of unsolicited goods or services. It is also an unfair practice for suppliers to send to a consumer an invoice or document that seeks payment for unsolicited goods or services.

 

2015 Company Alert on ATC

In 2015, CASE alerted[1] consumers of representations made by various employees or agents of ATC claiming to be able to recover monies paid for previous timeshare agreements from ATC. In the same alert, CASE reported that consumers of ATC may receive telephone calls from representatives of three other timeshare companies, Icon Solutions, International Timeshare Fund Action, and Realty Access, purporting to assist consumers to recover monies previously paid to ATC.

Consumer Advice

Consumers who have purchased or who are thinking of purchasing timeshare are advised to take note of the following:

  • Timeshare contracts involve a substantial amount of money. Clarify the contractual obligations (i.e. contract value, subscription fees, early termination fees and other incidentals) before committing to an agreement. 
  • Timeshare and timeshare-related contracts signed after 15 April 2009 are subject to a five-day cooling-off period under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) (Cancellation of Contracts) Regulations. The five days excludes Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays. Consumers should receive a Consumer Information Notice and a Product Information Notice (PIN). Furthermore, timeshare companies are not allowed to collect any deposit or sign any agreement for payment during the five-day cooling-off period.
  • If consumers wish to cancel the contract within the cooling-off period, they should complete the Notice of Cancellation, and send it back to the company by post, fax or in person.
  • Consumers should also exercise caution when they encounter third-party companies and/or agents that purport to be authorised resellers and/or agents who can help to terminate or transfer their timeshare agreements. To date, CASE is not aware of any companies or agents that has successfully recovered monies paid for timeshare agreements. Whenever possible, consumers should verify such claims with the principal before entering into a transaction.

Consumers who receive invoices or letters of demand from Global ATC and are unsure of their options may approach CASE for assistance (hotline: 6100 0315, website: www.case.org.sg).

 

Consumer Advisory – CASE alerts consumers on complaints received against fire extinguisher salespersons
 

The Consumers Association of Singapore (“CASE”) wishes to alert consumers to complaints received against unfair practices employed by fire extinguisher salespersons in door-to-door sales.

 

Background

From 1 January 2019 to 29 February 2020, CASE received 49 consumer complaints against fire extinguisher suppliers and/or their salespersons. Amongst these are complaints received against three fire extinguisher suppliers - SG Fire Prevention, Singapore Fire Prevention Pte Ltd (“Singapore Fire Prevention”) and Fire Safety and Prevention (SG).

 

Entity

No. of Complaints Received

SG Fire Prevention

15

Singapore Fire Prevention Pte Ltd

14

Fire Safety and Prevention (SG)

8

Table 1: Number of complaints received against each entity from 1 January 2019 to 29 February 2020


According to the consumers, fire extinguisher salespersons had made unsolicited calls on their residences to sell fire extinguishers. Many of these unsolicited calls were made after reports of fire in their neighbourhoods. In most cases, consumers alleged that they had been misled by salespersons purporting to be representing or endorsed by the authorities. Some also claim that it was mandatory by law to have fire extinguishers at home.

Consumers also complained that the salespersons initially quoted them a lower price for the fire extinguisher, but later informed them that a substantially higher amount was payable as the purchase included warranty and servicing costs as part of a multi-year package.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) has clarified that there is no regulatory requirement for residential home owners to purchase fire extinguishers. CASE was also informed that the SCDF is not involved in any sales of fire extinguishers and has not authorised any company to conduct such activities on its behalf.

 

The CPFTA and Its Subsidiary Regulations

Under the CPFTA, it is an unfair practice for a supplier to make misleading and/or false claims. Consumers who encounter such unfair practices have the right to seek redress.

Further, under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) (Cancellation of Contracts) Regulations (“COC Regulations”), consumers have the right to cancel a direct sales contract within five days (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays) after the contract is signed and they are informed of the right to cancel the contract in accordance with the COC Regulations. This is commonly known as the five-day cooling-off period. A direct sales contract is a consumer transaction which is entered into during an unsolicited visit to the consumer’s residence/workplace by a supplier, also known as door-to-door sales.

 

Engagement with Fire Extinguisher Suppliers

In response to consumer complaints, CASE had issued warning letters to these fire extinguisher suppliers for the alleged unfair practices and for not honouring the five-day cooling-off period stipulated under the CPFTA and the COC Regulations respectively.

CASE is of the view that it is unethical for suppliers to prey on consumers’ fears and create a false sense of urgency in consumers to buy fire extinguishers by making false claims that it is a regulatory requirement to purchase fire extinguishers.

CASE takes a serious view against errant suppliers that persist in egregious conduct against consumers and will continue to monitor the situation very closely. This Consumer Advisory is to highlight the unacceptable conduct of the errant fire extinguisher suppliers.

 

Consumer Advice

Consumers are also advised to take note of the following for door-to-door sales:

  • Consumers should exercise caution against anyone who purports to represent any government agency. They should always request for proper identification for verification. They may also call the hotline of the respective government agency to verify.
  • Consumers should verify the actual amount they are to be charged, before making payment.
  • Consumers should exercise their right to turn down a salesperson who uses aggressive pressure sales tactics. Be polite but firm when stating their refusal.
  • If consumers do not wish to proceed with the purchase, they can cancel a direct sales contract within five days (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays) after the contract is signed and they are informed of the right to cancel the contract in accordance with the COC Regulations. They may cancel the contract by delivering a notice of cancellation personally to the business, or by sending the notice via email, post or fax. Suppliers are required to provide a refund to consumers within 60 days after the notice is given.
  • Consumers with unresolved disputes can approach CASE for assistance (hotline: 6100 0315, website: www.case.org.sg).
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