New Rules and guide to Price Transparency

There has been a spike in digital transformation globally and in Singapore, this process has been drastically pushed forward in view of the Covid-19 pandemic. With the push on online sales, we are bound to see sellers who game the system. So recently, there is some new rules around price transparency and it is going to protect consumer. All retailer will have to comply as the rules will be effective 1 Nov 2020.

The Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act (CPFTA) has issues guidelines on price transparency and you can find out more here at CCCS Guideline on Price Transparency

There are four very simple points:

a. Drip Pricing – Display a headline price that omits mandatory charges and pre-ticked optional add-ons when the final price is higher.

Summary: Mandatory charges has to be inclusive and displayed together with the headline price. When add-ons are optional, it should not be pre-ticked and it should never be. Should there be pre-ticked options, it should be displayed prominently, disclose the price and Terms & Conditions.

The Objective: You can now raise complains should a retailer fail to comply with the above. By pre-ticking optional adds ons, it actually shows how sneaky a retailer is. Also, if a Nintendo Switch is going for $250 in the headline price. When you include other fees and charges such as shipping, handling and etc….it becomes $500. This is not allowed anymore.

b. Price Comparison – Compare prices with competitors to reflect a competitive price or price advantage.

Summary: Retailers have to ensure goods or services used for marketing comparisons are similar or equivalent by trading norms. Proof or record reference prices to price that it isn’t fake or misleading in nature. Periodically, retailers should check reference prices and amend the comparison accordingly.

Objective: If a competitor starts to say that another house is pricier, they can’t do that now. If they use a price that was aeons ago, that is against the rules too. Using an apple to compare against an orange doesn’t cut it as well. On a personal level, I just think that there is going to be so much fruitless argument on this topic. I can already see what retailers are going to use to argue their actions about what is the norm.

c. Discounts – Offering a price discount for goods and/or service

Summary: Retailers have to use genuine previous prices when making comparisons, record evidence of past sales and prices. If there is a time period of discount, it should be real and stated prominently

Objective: We often see a Usual Price and Discount Price but a lot of those U.P. was never really the Usual Selling Price. The classic, but 1 for $5 and 2 for $10 is finally not allowed anymore. They didn’t say anything about 1 for $5 and 2 for $20 though but I’m pretty sure that is illegal. Often, we see limited period sale to engage consumers in panic buying and scarcity but the truth is that there is none or available for an extended duration instead. Some unscrupulous retailers also advertised her products at a low price with no stock or supply. The whole idea is most likely to attract leads and cross sell other products. All these are not allowed anymore.

d. Use of the Term “Free” – Enticing consumers “Free” products and services to entice them to try it out and eventually buy it.

Summary: Include and specify all fees and costs clearly and prominently with the the free representation. If there is a free trial (Period), there is a need to inform consumers before the end of the free trial and provide clear instructions on how to cancel or stop the deduction.

Objective: There will be retailers who are out there to make consumers pay for goods and/or service that were supposed to be “free”. Some retailers might increase the price or reduce the quality of a product or service to recover the cost of “free”. In my opinion, that isn’t free. Including the free service into part of the package price is not allowed although how are we to know that is the case? Similar to point (c), some retailers might offer some free product or service when they don’t have or do not intend to do so.

My Thoughts

Overall, it is great to see that there is some form of price ruling around how retailers market to consumers but if one is naive enough, it still doesn’t help. Although the specifications are there, it sounds almost like “I told you not to do this” and when they get caught, they will get smacked with charges and fines. I don’t see how consumers are being protected more but instead I see more unscrupulous retailers would argue their way out of this.


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