Since 1 April 2018, the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) has taken on the additional function of administering the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act. During the CCCS's launch event in 2018, the CCCS's chairman highlighted that the "new remit will ensure the CCCS's powers under the CPFTA work hand in glove with its powers under the Competition Act". It was announced then that the CCCS will conduct two market studies that have both competition law and consumer protection elements. Of interest is the CCCS's market study on the online travel booking sector, which was motivated by the fact that "Singaporeans are increasingly well-travelled ...., online travel booking platforms have become a key channel for consumers to search for and purchase travel-related products, including air tickets and accommodation".
The CCCS's Director (Consumer Protection) announced on 26 August 2019 that the CCCS has completed this market study, and is developing a set of guidelines on price transparency which will contain the "dos and don'ts for suppliers relating to various pricing practices such as time-limited discounts, free offers and price comparisons." The CCCS is expected to release the details of the market study and will conduct a public consultation on the guidelines soon.
The CCCS's focus on price transparency was recently underlined, when it announced its closure of an investigation against a restaurant for engaging in an unfair practice, after the restaurant agreed to cease such practices. The restaurant had represented in its promotional materials on its website, social media page and in-store posters and menu that it was offering discounts for meals that were "for a limited period only" or would be "Ending Soon! 50% Discount", when in fact they continued to be available for at least another two years since February 2016. The CCCS further noted that it is "closely monitoring other businesses that engage in similar unfair practices where consumers are made to believe that there is scarcity in the availability of goods or services through misrepresentation of discount or promotion periods".
Osborne Clarke comment
As the CCCS sharpens its focus on price transparency, businesses in Singapore should review their existing practices to ensure that they do not fall foul of the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us if you wish to discuss how this development may impact your business operations in Singapore. We will continue to monitor developments and provide updates on the CCCS's public consultation on the guidelines when they are available.