26 April 2022
Following investigations, the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (“CCCS”) has found that a personal computer (“PC”) vendor and its former authorised reseller/partner engaged in unfair practices under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act 2003 (“CPFTA”) by making false or misleading claims about the screen refresh rate of certain models of a specific gaming laptop (“specific gaming laptop”). CCCS issued a media release about this case on its website www.cccs.gov.sg on 14 April 2022.
CCCS started its investigations against the PC vendor in May 2020, and subsequently, against the former authorised reseller/partner in relation to representations made in respect of the screen refresh rate of the specific gaming laptop on the PC vendor’s website and product listings posted on a third party online platform, respectively. Prior to CCCS’s investigations, there was a report in a Singapore Chinese newspaper about a case study by the Consumers Association of Singapore (“CASE”) concerning a consumer who purchased a laptop after being misled by an online advertisement stating that the laptop had a 144 Hz screen refresh rate. The consumer claimed that the laptop he subsequently received only had a 60 Hz screen refresh rate and sought assistance from CASE. Following CASE’s engagement with the PC vendor, the latter provided a full refund to the consumer.
CCCS’s investigations revealed the following:
- Between April 2019 and June 2020, the PC vendor stated on its website that the screen refresh rate of the specific gaming laptop could achieve a screen refresh rate of “up to 144 Hz” and omitted to state that several models of the specific gaming laptop could only achieve a screen refresh rate of up to 60 Hz. The omission of information gave the impression that the “up to 144 Hz” screen refresh rate also applied to the models which could only achieve a screen refresh rate of up to 60 Hz.
- Between August 2019 and March 2020, the PC vendor’s former authorised reseller/partner posted online product listings for two models of the specific gaming laptop stating that the screen refresh rate could achieve “up to 144 Hz”, when these models could in fact only achieve a screen refresh rate of up to 60 Hz.
Undertakings to cease unfair practices
The PC vendor and its former authorised reseller/partner have stopped selling the specific gaming laptop since June 2020 and March 2020 respectively. Both parties have provided CCCS with undertakings, including the following:
- To cease the unfair practices described above and not engage in any other unfair practices under the CPFTA.
- To implement an internal compliance policy to ensure that their conduct in relation to advertising, marketing materials and listings of retail goods and services do not amount to unfair practices under the CPFTA.
After taking into consideration the facts and circumstances of the respective cases, including that both parties had ceased the relevant conduct referred to above either before or shortly after CCCS commenced its investigations, CCCS accepted the undertakings and closed its investigations.
Consumers who are affected by the unfair practices described above can consider approaching the PC vendor and its former authorised reseller/partner to seek redress. Alternatively, consumers can approach CASE to assist in negotiations.
CCCS and CASE to monitor the e-commerce industry
CCCS will continue to work with CASE to monitor the e-commerce industry, given that consumers are increasingly making purchases online. CCCS has made available on its website an infographic titled “False or misleading claims on performance characteristics, components, uses or benefits of goods or services” which recommends businesses to adopt the following practices:
- Ensure claims on the performance characteristics, components, uses or benefits of their goods or services are accurate to allow consumers to make informed choices.
- Be accurate, clear and upfront about material information (e.g. characteristics, terms, limitations, etc.) relating to their goods or services.
- Exercise due diligence and avoid making claims on characteristics of goods or services which cannot be properly substantiated.
- Review business practices regularly and ensure that existing claims made on goods or services are not false or misleading, and correct any false or misleading claims as soon as these come to attention.