The last thing I bought on Qoo10 was a “travel yoga mat”. It turned out to be nothing more than a normal terry cloth towel that’s more useful for cleaning floors than doing yoga. You’ve probably experienced similar disappointments with defective goods, and you might be wondering if the lemon law in Singapore can help.
What is the lemon law and what does it cover?
The lemon law is designed to protect consumers from defective products, regardless of whether you bought them online or offline.
The law kicks in if you receive a product and it turns out to be:
(a) different from what was described,
(b) of unsatisfactory quality, or
(c) cannot be used in the way the seller told you it could
The lemon law covers all consumer goods sold in Singapore, including electronics and vehicles. Surprisingly, it also covers second hand items and perishables (e.g. food) up to its shelf life.
But before you try to whack that used handbag store with the hammer of justice, know that there are a lower standards for second hand goods. No lawyer is going to sympathise with your complaint that your used LV bag has a scuff.
And if the seller – whether first hand, second hand, online or offline – has already informed you of defects, and you bought it willingly, you can’t use the lemon law on her. Duh.
Now, what can the lemon law do for you? If you dropped a large amount of cash on that crappy product… sorry, but you can’t get your money back. That’s not one of the things the lemon law can compel the seller to do. But the seller is obliged to repair or replace the item.
If you bought a lemon, what can you do?
Step 1: Return the lemon within 6 months of purchase. Under the lemon law, you can get it replaced or repaired for free if you return it within 6 months of the purchase.
Step 2: The seller must either repair or replace it at their own cost. This should happen within a “reasonable timeframe”, but unfortunately the law is silent on what constitutes one. So this is something you’ll have to work out with the retailer.
The business also cannot repair or replace your item at “significant inconvenience” to you. This means they mustn’t ask you to jump through hoops and fly to their China warehouse to collect your replacement item.
Step 3: You can ask for a refund or reduction in price. What happens if they take so long to repair or replace the product that you’ve moved into a new age group? If they have not done what they were supposed to within a “reasonable timeframe”, you are entitled to ask for a reduction in price or a refund.
Alternatively, if you decide to keep the defective goods, ask for a reduction in price.
Limitations of the lemon law in Singapore
If you’re rejoicing because you think you can now return those clothes you couldn’t squeeze into, tough luck. The lemon law is meant to protect customers against defective goods, or goods that are wildly different from what was described.
Can you return a burger to McDonald’s because it looked smaller and more pathetic than it did in the ads? Probably not.
You also cannot use the lemon law for the following:
Consumer-to-consumer transactions: Sorry, but you can’t force that Carouseller to repair that second hand blogshop dress just because it has “furrings”.
Business-to-business transactions: The lemon law is for ordinary customers, not businesses.
Houses and land: No, you cannot return your home for being “too small and cramped”.
Rental/leased goods: No, you can’t complain about that car or wedding dress you rented.
Services: No, that lousy service at that restaurant does not entitle you to any compensation.
Virtual goods: Squandered all your Pokemon Coins? Sorry, you can’t use the lemon law to get them replaced.
And of course, you will not be entitled to remedies if you damaged, misused or tried to repair the item yourself, or if the seller told you about the fault beforehand.
So, do your research before you buy, and if you think you’re going to return the item, don’t touch or use it before doing so.
Have you ever successfully returned an item thanks to the lemon law? Share your experiences in the comments.