Consumer Council keeps us on our toes

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 November, 2010, 12:00am

Despite the number of times the Consumer Council has warned about misleading sales practices, even those who pride themselves on being realistically minded can be lured into consumer decisions based on the promise of everlasting beauty. Vanity has been mankind's greatest foible and can cloud the judgment of any one of us.

Hence, even though objectively and with hindsight, the conflict of interest involved in a slimming or fitness centre giving advice on how much weight you should lose should be obvious, it is still easy to fall for such sales talk. Fitness and slimming centres have an obvious interest in making you hate your own body in order to keep you addicted to the gym or their products.

While women may fall foul of misleading sales practices regarding cosmetics, an increasing number of complaints are being lodged by men over fitness centres. Neither sex is immune to flattery and the promise of beauty. In one fitness centre, as revealed by an undercover agent of the Consumer Council last week, a 1.77- metre-tall man weighing 83 kilograms was told he was severely overweight and needed to lose 30kg of excess fat. In any ordinary situation this might seem obviously ridiculous and absurd and yet this particular fitness 'adviser' had the audacity to utter such nonsense. Presumably, unsuspecting clients who harboured dreams of looking like the models in fitness magazines had accepted such advice without suspicion in the past.

Fortunately, complaints about such sales practices in the beauty industry have been growing - from 469 in 2008, to 514 last year, and 777 in the first 10 months of this year alone. Consequently, it appears the Consumer Council has also been following up on cases and disclosing such practices so that the public can remain alert. It is another example of how citizens with civic duty can report abuses and help each other. Until the government completes a comprehensive review on laws protecting consumers from malpractices, the best prevention is to ensure the public are informed and alert to such hard-sell tactics.