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Consumer watchdog recoups 55% more money, resolves more cases

SINGAPORE — An unemployed woman who wanted to take advantage of an S$18 promotion to slim down ended up with much lighter pockets instead. She was pressured into signing up for packages worth S$88,000, and wanted to back out after about 30 sessions.

Consumer watchdog recoups 55% more money, resolves more cases

Top industries with highest number of mediated cases.

SINGAPORE — An unemployed woman who wanted to take advantage of an S$18 promotion to slim down ended up with much lighter pockets instead. She was pressured into signing up for packages worth S$88,000, and wanted to back out after about 30 sessions.

With the help of the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE), the beauty salon and the woman eventually agreed on a cash refund of S$55,000.

The case was one of 94 resolved by the consumer watchdog’s mediation centre last year. About three in four cases mediated by CASE last year were resolved, slightly higher than the 68.5 per cent resolution rate in 2013, CASE announced today (June 9).

The amount recouped shot up nearly 55 per cent, from S$284,465 in 2013 to S$439,701 last year. The increase in the amount recouped could be because of consumers with contracts of higher values — such as for beauty packages, cars and renovation services — who turn to CASE for mediation, said association president Lim Biow Chuan.

The motor-car industry had the highest number of mediated cases last year at 23, or nearly one in five cases seen by CASE’s mediation centre. The beauty industry and contractors accounted for 17 cases each, while real estate cases numbered 12. Other mediation cases involved the slimming, electronics, hair, travel, furniture and computer industries. In 2013, the beauty industry had the highest number of mediated cases, while motor cars ranked fourth.

Mr Lim said mediation is more efficient and cost-effective than litigation. CASE’s mediation centre was set up in 1999 to resolve disputes between consumers and businesses, and he said the association’s mediation sessions are conducted with two professional mediators. The settlement is binding. CASE hopes to raise awareness of mediation through talks and seminars.

Last May, the watchdog and the Personal Data Protection Commission signed an agreement for CASE’s mediation centre to help settle disputes between organisations and consumers related to data protection provisions under the Personal Data Protection Act. So far, no case of this nature has been brought for mediation.

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