Parliamentary Question by Mr Patrick Tay Teck Guan:
To ask the Minister for Finance how can the Government better assist or advise businesses which have been deceived or misled into signing contracts with companies purporting to be authorised Government agencies or authorised company registrars.
Parliamentary Reply by Minister for Finance, Mr Heng Swee Keat:
1. The Government takes a firm stand against any company that impersonates a government agency or an authorised company registrar. In Singapore’s context, the authorised company registrar is the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA). ACRA is the statutory body responsible for the registration of companies and businesses in Singapore, and will not hesitate to investigate suspected breaches and prosecute offenders.
2. There are safeguards against a company that tries to pass off as a government entity. Companies and other business entities are required to state their name and registration number in all business correspondences, so that members of the public know the identity of the business entity that they are interacting with. ACRA takes any breach of this requirement seriously. Such a breach can be liable for a fine of up to S$1,000. In the past six years, ACRA has, upon receiving complaints, investigated seven business entities for failing to properly state their name and/or registration number.
3. To protect themselves, businesses are reminded to exercise vigilance when dealing with any unsolicited letter or email from companies purporting to be authorised Government agencies or authorised company registrars. Letters from government agencies have distinct letterheads, with their names and logos. When in doubt, businesses should contact the government agency. They can use the free business entity search function on ACRA’s website to verify the identity of the entity they are dealing with. Businesses should peruse carefully all the terms and conditions before entering into any form of agreement.
4. ACRA, in collaboration with the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE), has an online guide for consumers, which includes a checklist on what consumers should watch out for before making business decisions and how they can use ACRA’s business information services to conduct background checks on business entities. This guide, available on ACRA’s website, includes advice on how to distinguish if the correspondences are from businesses or government agencies.
5. Businesses and consumers should alert ACRA if there are any suspected wrongdoings or misrepresentations by companies purporting to be authorised Government agencies or authorised company registrars. They should also make a police report.
6. In short, be alert, check and if necessary, report.