Case has finally taken action against giant IT retailer Challenger -- three months after Anne Wong Holloway complained to the consumer watchdog about a misleading advertisement taken out by the company during the IT Show in March this year.
However, the "warning" it has given to Challenger seems like a tap on the wrist, especially when the company had obviously taken its time to respond to letters by Case.
Challenger's ad was published in the mainstream newspapers during the IT Show on March 10 with a bold headline, "We Match Show Pricing".
But Anne found it was not true when she went to its Funan Centre outlet to buy a Canon all-in-one printer.
She wrote to me about her experience. I posted her story on March 13 and alerted both Case and Challenger about the complaint.
Two days ago, Thevanathan Pillay, Case's Assistant Director (Legal), emailed me to say that Challenger had "agreed to refrain from publishing future ads of similar
nature to those found in Today and Straits Times. They have agreed to
exercise caution for future advertisements so that it is in compliance with
the Consumer Protection fair Trading Act."
Pillay added: "We take note of their promise and will monitor whether
future advertisements are misleading."
When I informed Anne about the Case reply, she was not happy with its response to Challenger.
She said: "The delay and passing the buck ensured that this incident would be 'lost' and forgotten until nothing concrete can be done. No one wanted to offend an advertiser who spends money placing advertisements --- no matter how misleading and the line of least resistance was to let things pass.
"It just goes to show how little protection is afforded to consumers in Singapore.
"Since there is NO evidence of CASE's letter to Challenger (and their ad agency) nor Challenger's reply, we cannot assume any action was taken or that Challenger 'agreed to exercise caution for fture advertisements so that it is in compliance with the Consumer Protection fair Trading Act.'
"Until there is REAL protection for consumers and the individual in Singapore, we will not be truly in the 'first' world. After all, if we have a Consumer Proetection Fair Trading Act, why is there no penalty for non-compliance?"
Shortly after Anne's comments, Pillay wrote to explain: "What we have done was to write to Challenger to inform them that such an advertisement is not acceptable and inform them we do not expect a repetition of this.
"They have replied agreeing not to do the same in the future. If any person have suffered monetary loss because of the events they can pursue the matter against Challenger as a civil claim as a breach of contract for which CASE can assist.
"We do not view the matter as so serious as to warrant further action by CASE. Our letter to Challenger is considered a warning letter.
"What is important is to inform Challenger of the existence of the relevant Act and get assurance which they have given that their future advertisements will comply with the CPFTA. This is the first time we have receive complaints of this nature concerning Challenger's advertisement . We will monitor future advertisements."