Having a financial dispute such as claims, refunds or even overdue personal debts can be a nightmare to most people, especially when the claimer is under private capacity, with limited time and money to go through lengthy and expensive legal processes in Court.
So what are the alternative resolution available for commoners?
Basically in Singapore, for smaller claim amounts, there are some cheaper and swifter options available:
CASE – “Consumers Association of Singapore” claims to be a non-profit, non-governmental organization that is committed towards protecting consumers interest through information and education, and promoting an environment of fair and ethical trade practices.
Despite being a non-profit organization, CASE do charge a nominal Administrative Charges:
CASE generally only accepts “Consumer-to-Business” dispute cases, and they normally adopt a mediation approach for most cases.
It is notably to note, there are many types of case where CASE do not handle:
- Business-to-business disputes (and Tourist-to-business disputes)
- This includes any transactions between businesses and products or services purchased for business use. Should there be a dispute, you may consider checking with the Small Claims Tribunals (SCT) if you are eligible to make a claim via SCT.
- For tourists who wish to flag inappropriate retailer behaviour, you can call the Singapore Tourism Board at 1800-736-2000 from Monday to Friday (excluding Public Holidays), between 9 am to 6 pm daily or email STB at STB_Feedback@stb.gov.sg.
- Landlord and tenant claims
- For disputes pertaining to deposits or rental issues, you should lodge your case with the Small Claims Tribunals SCT.
- Speculation in shares, stocks, commodities, investments
- If you are an investor and have dealings in shares, stocks etc. These are not consumer issues.
- Accident claims
- If you have a dispute with another driver in an accident, we are unable to assist.
- Overseas companies
- If you have bought a product overseas (except for Mainland China, India, Macao SAR and Malaysia), we cannot pursue your case
For cases where CASE is unable to handle, the next option is to go to the Small Claim Tribunals:
*Source: CASE website
- Small Claims Tribunals
The Small Claims Tribunals is part of the State Courts of Singapore.
From 10 July 2017, the Tribunals will be using an electronic case filing and management system called CJTS (Community Justice and Tribunals System). CJTS allows parties involved in disputes to file claims and access Court e-services from the comfort of their homes or any place with an internet connection.
The Tribunals hear claims not exceeding $10,000. This limit can be raised to $20,000 if both parties agree to it and file a Memorandum of Consent online. All claims must be filed within 1 year from the date on which the cause of action accrued.
For more information on Small Claims Tribunal, please visit www.statecourts.gov.sg/SmallClaims/Pages/GeneralInformation.aspx.
After a claim is filed, a Consultation date will be fixed for parties to appear before the Registrar in Court. At a Consultation, the Registrar will:
- Assess if a claim is within the Tribunals’ jurisdiction
- Give parties an opportunity to discuss their cases with a view to resolving their dispute amicably
- Where parties are unable to settle a matter, fix the matter for a Hearing before a judge (Referee), or make such other orders as it deems fit
Note: Lawyers are not allowed to represent any of the parties in proceedings before the Tribunals.
Where a case is fixed for Hearing, the Hearing can occur within 24 hours of the date of the Consultation. At the Hearing, both parties will have a chance to present their cases to the Referee. The Referee will listen to the parties’ evidence, the evidence of witnesses (if any) and make a decision on the merits of the case and in accordance with the law.
If both CASE and Small Claim Tribunals are not able to handle your case, then the next level is to file a Magistrate’s Complaint, however, not all cases will be accepted by the Magistrate Court.
Lastly, for those who need some expert legal advise but can’t afford lawyer charges, they can always apply for FREE legal aid in Singapore.