As the Overview (February 2001) reports, there is no single code or body of legislation in Singapore that deals with product liability in a comprehensive manner. Product liability law is rather to be found in statutes that deal in part with product liability issues, and in the common law areas of contract and tort.

The question of whether there is a need for dedicated product liability and consumer protection legislation has long been the subject of debate in Parliament, and last year the Ministry for Trade and Industry proposed that a task force be formed to investigate the issue further. (For further details please see the ministry's website).

The task force was formed in March 2001. Jointly led by the Ministry for Trade and Industry and the Consumers Association of Singapore, it comprised members from government and regulatory agencies, and from the private sector and business associations. The ministry has accepted most of the recommendations made in the task force's report and has incorporated them in its draft Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Bill. The bill's aims are as follows:

  • to protect ordinary consumers;

  • to minimize compliance costs, so as not to burden traders unduly;

  • to hold traders accountable to victims of unfair trade practices instead of penalizing them;

  • to increase the information made available to consumers; and

  • to empower consumers by giving them swift access to civil remedies.

The terms of the bill are intended to complement existing consumer protection legislation, such as the Consumer Protection (Trade Description and Safety Requirements) Act, which prohibits false trade descriptions and requires that goods carry informative markings and comply with safety requirements.

The ethos behind the draft Fair Trading Bill is to protect consumers who lack the expertise or resources to protect themselves. Consumers of expensive goods and services are in less need of the protection offered by the bill. They tend to be more sophisticated, have greater financial resources and can obtain legal advice before entering into a transaction. They can also pursue different legal remedies in order to enforce their rights.

By making it easier to bring civil claims against traders, the bill imposes compliance costs on businesses. However, it recognizes that these costs should be limited to situations where they are necessary to ensure adequate consumer protection.

The ministry is now seeking public feedback on the draft Fair Trading Bill.

For further information on this topic please contact Lawrence Teh at Rodyk & Davidson by telephone (+65 225 2626) or by fax (+65 225 1838) or by email ([email protected]).