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Business Advice

Protecting consumers from unsafe goods

The first of a three-part series on building trust in products and services through quality and standards.
The Straits Times - June 23, 2011
By: Mark Tay
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Protecting consumers from unsafe goods Mr Steven Tan says consumers should report to Spring Singapore if they are shortchanged.

IF THE paint on your child's toy seems to come off too easily or the meat from the wet market is underweight, you can turn to Spring Singapore.

It is the appointed safety authority that protects consumers from unsafe goods and helps them to get a fair deal when weights and prices do not add up.

Spring, which has the power under law to protect consumers, manages the Consumer Protection Registration Scheme (CPS).

The scheme covers safety requirements of 45 categories of household electrical, electronic and gas products.

These goods bear a safety mark issued after they meet specified safety standards before they can go on sale here, said Mr Steven Tan, Spring's group director (quality and standards).

'We will conduct post-market surveillance (after products are released) and if they are found not to meet international standards, or found to be unsafe, then we have the right to stop sales,' Mr Tan said.

A second element which led to an expansion in Spring's role is the Consumer Goods Safety Requirements (CGSR), which came into effect on April 1 this year. This gives consumers protection from unsafe goods such as toys, children's products, apparel, sports and recreation products and furniture.

'The CGSR cover about 15,000 categories of consumer products. Much larger than the (CPS which has) only 45 categories,' Mr Tan said.

Spring aims to have 'zero infringements or incidents', but it acknowledges that it is hard to achieve.

'Realistically, it will be difficult to meet (the targets) when we are talking about the 15,000 product categories. So the aim is to keep it as low as possible,' said Mr Tan.

Under the CPS, there have been no reported incidents since 2004.

Spring has widened its partnership with the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) in educating businesses and consumers about what they can do to ensure the safety of consumer goods.

Spring's efforts to protect consumers also include its Fair Weights and Measures programme.

'The Fair Weights and Measures programme (plays) a regulatory role and is necessary to ensure fair trading; the weighing scales have to be verified to ensure they measure correctly,' Mr Tan said.

The programme aims to prevent misuse of or tampering with weighing and measuring instruments and has had a good track record, with so few infringements that Mr Tan described it as 'the lowest compared to other countries'.

'We have managed in the past five years to keep it to a single digit, five (incidents) and below. So in terms of per million population, it is about one infringement per year.'

Spring employs authorised verifiers to run checks to verify that measurement instruments are not tampered with.

They check measuring instruments and affix accuracy labels to indicate that they are fit for trade use.

Mr Tan said verifiers are needed because there are about 40,000 measuring instruments in Singapore.

'Given the small pool of manpower we have here, (we need them) to help us verify and check the measuring instruments regularly,' he said, adding that the Fair Weights and Measures programme is an 'invisible' part of Spring's quality and standards system.

'It is only when there is an infringement that we receive all this feedback.'

Consumers can report infringements to a Spring hotline.

While businesses have to ensure that their scales are verified and fit for trade use, Mr Tan said consumers could play their part by looking out for accuracy labels on measuring instruments.

'(Consumers should also) report to Spring if they come across any short weight or short measure in their purchases,' he said.




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