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Is a new accreditation scheme for hair and cosmetology industry enough?

CASE key executive suggests measures to gain consumers’ trust back.

The Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) have recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Hair & Cosmetology Association (Singapore) (HACOS) to develop a joint accreditation for the hair & cosmetology industry. This move comes after the sudden closure of The Scissorhands hair salon that resulted in hundreds of consumers being left in the lurch with unused hair packages.

To give light about the importance of MOU and what can consumers expect from this joint accreditation for the hair & cosmetology industry, Singapore Business Review spoke with Seah Seng Choon, Executive Director, Consumers Association of Singapore.

SBR: What is the purpose and relevance of the MOU?

Seah: The purpose of the MOU was to uplift the hair industry standards and allow consumers to gain back their confidence towards accredited hair salons in Singapore. Hair and cosmetology businesses that become CaseTrust accredited will be engaging and will be seen to practice fair trading and transparency towards consumers, and this would help to improve the overall image of the industry.

SBR: What are the steps you intend to take to develop a joint accreditation for the hair & cosmetology industry?

Seah: Through a series of meetings and discussion, CaseTrust and HACOS will come to an agreement about the criteria and the policies that businesses must have in place to be successfully accredited. The criteria for the joint scheme will be built upon the common criteria of our general CaseTrust scheme. HACOS will propose consumer-friendly criteria which are unique to this industry, to set themselves apart from the average businesses which are not accredited; CaseTrust will also propose other consumer-friendly criteria based on the consumer complaints records that we receive.

SBR: How did the recent fiasco concerning the sudden closure of Scissorhands Hair Salon affect the hair and cosmetology industry?

Seah: CASE received feedback that many consumers had lost confidence in buying hair packages at salons, as they felt that if a salon could close down at any one time, they would not be able to complete the package and chances of recovering their money back was rather low.

SBR: What other steps do you suggest to prevent reoccurrence of the fiasco in the future? What other measures should the government and industry players take to gain consumers' trust back?

Seah: There is a need for the government and industry players to look into protection for consumers’ prepayments. Many businesses do collect prepayment and/or offer packages for sale. These includes industries such as beauty, hair, slimming, contractors, bridal, travel and more. Some ways to protect consumers could be to require all businesses to take out business insurance for their consumers in the event of insolvency or put the prepayments with an escrow service until the business’s obligations to the consumer have been fulfilled.CASE has approached the Ministry of Trade and Industry for such prepayments to be protected under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act (CPFTA) which is currently being updated.

5. Is there anything that you would like to add?

Meanwhile, we advise consumers to always negotiate for progressive payment, and the deposit paid should be as low as possible to minimize their loses in the event that anything goes wrong. Consumers should also look into buying insurance (where possible) to protect themselves. They can do their own research, such as checking online websites and forums, on whether the business has an excellent reputation in the industry and a good track record of delivering their goods or services promptly and effectively.

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