New body to decide on tourists' refunds
A Travel Industry Council working group will be established to determine whether goods can be returned for refunds when disputes arise between tourists and shops, a source familiar with the situation said.
The working group will mainly comprise specialists from the consumer electronics, household appliances, and watches and jewellery sectors. Industry experts have been invited to join the working group.
'We need specialists because only they will know whether a product has been used once or repeatedly or been damaged accidentally,' the source said.
'They can examine the product, like the memory card of a camera, to figure out how often it has been used, if at all.'
The council will hold a board meeting on Wednesday to ratify the working group and other initiatives proposed to rein in rogue retailers. The new measures will be in place by June 1.
Making the working group responsible for determining the merits of a refund is seen as a compromise with shops that sell to tour groups, since the council's new terms of agreement will stretch the refund period from 14 days to six months.
Shops that wish to conduct tour group business must sign the new agreement and breaches might result in deregistration from the council. A total of 57 shops have already registered with the council.
An earlier proposal to exempt certain categories from the 180-day guaranteed-refund period, such as digital cameras, mobile phones and other popular consumer gadgets, has been dropped, the source said.
Shops have been critical of the longer refund period for these products and say being forced to give refunds on products that are used or damaged and have a short shelf life is unfair.
Tourists abusing the refund scheme by returning merchandise they have used is also not uncommon, some shops allege.
'We decided that including exemptions would just overly complicate the refund scheme so we scrapped that idea,' the source said.