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Know Your Rights As A Consumer

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How not to make your car purchase a regrettable experience.If you have problems with your recent car purchase and think you have landed a lemon of a buy, is there any recourse against the seller?

Some buyers may not know that they are protected by the Lemon Law in Singapore. Put in place back in September 2012, this law protects consumers against defects of goods — including cars — purchased in Singapore within six months from date of delivery. Depending on the claims, businesses are obliged to repair, replace or compensate for a defective product.

When buying a big-ticket item such as a car, be it new or used, always do your research on not just the cars you are interested in, but also the sellers themselves. Forums and car sites are great sources of information and feedback, so utilise these to help you. For pre-owned cars, the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) has come up with a Safe Checklist, which you can download and use to help you make an informed decision when buying a used car. This checklist equips consumers with an overview of the car they are buying, and also the importance of getting an independent and comprehensive evaluation before they make their purchase.

Be aware that the law does not recognise consumer-to-consumer transactions. If you buy the car from a direct owner or a consignment dealer, the law will not cover you. There have been cases where some second-hand car dealers pose as direct owners or pretend to help an owner sell his car to circumvent the Lemon Law, so beware.

Also, under the law, used-car dealers’ claim of no refunds or selling a car ‘as is’ is not allowed. Conditions such as these are not legally binding, and dealers are required to inform potential buyers of any known defects of the car they are selling. If you intend to sell your car to a dealer, your transaction is not covered by the Lemon Law, but the dealer can still sue you under the Sale of Goods Act if your vehicle condition is not as agreed upon in the sales contract.

Making a claim against a car dealer should be straightforward enough. However, in the event that you are not satisfied with the results, you can approach CASE for assistance. CASE can help you draft letters to dealers for a claim under the law, but you have to send the letter yourself.

If your claim is successful, the car dealer is legally bound to repair or replace the defective component covered by the dealer. If they cannot complete the repairs within a reasonable time period, or without undue inconvenience to the consumer, the consumer is entitled to a price reduction on the purchase price or a full refund of the vehicle upon returning it. For new car purchases, if it is not feasible to repair, it is possible to get a car replacement whereby the COE and other registration fees are transferred to the replacement car. Note that the dealer can offer to replace it with one of similar age and mileage.

Knowing your rights as a consumer will give you confidence when you do make that car purchase.

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