Singapore: Singapore Law On Automotive Emissions Standards And Automobile Product Liability

Last Updated: 9 December 2015
Article by Ian Roberts

With the continuing development of the Volkswagen scandal, Ian Roberts and Marcus Yip* explain the country's law with which motor vehicles' purchasers can bring action against motor manufacturers and trade dealers.

On 18 September this year, US regulators announced that Volkswagen ("VW") had installed a so-called "defeat device" in many VW diesel vehicles sold in America. The device is a software that was designed to detect when the vehicle was undergoing official pollution testing, and to limit the production of harmful levels of nitrogen oxide during such testing.

In Singapore, in a statement released by VW Singapore on 12 October 2015, VW confirmed that there were 662 VW diesel vehicles registered in Singapore that have "software that could cause discrepancies in nitrogen oxide values during dynamometer runs".

Given the relatively small number of vehicles involved, the impact of the crisis in Singapore would appear to be fairly limited. In this article, we consider some of the legal issues under Singapore law relating to automotive emissions standards and product liability laws applicable to vehicle manufacturers and dealers in general.

Regulatory issues

Emissions standards for vehicles are prescribed by the National Environment Agency of Singapore (the "NEA") in the Environment Protection and Management (Vehicular Emissions) Regulations (the "VER"). Singapore law on automotive emissions standards and automobile product liability.

The VER presently prescribes minimum emissions standards for vehicles in Singapore by reference to certain standards that have been issued in the European Community and Japan. In order for a motor vehicle to be imported and registered in Singapore by the Land Transport Authority, the vehicle must comply with NEA's emissions standards requirements.

A person or entity that imports a vehicle in Singapore in contravention of applicable emission standards by falsely representing to the authorities that it complies with such standards is potentially liable for a criminal offence.

The VER also gives the Director-General of Environmental Protection (appointed under the Environmental Protection and Management Act) the power, with the approval of the Minister of the Environment and Water Resources, to prohibit or restrict the use of motor vehicles of any specified class or description on any roads in Singapore if the Director-General is satisfied that the prohibition or restriction is necessary to safeguard public health from excessive levels of air pollution.

In addition, a vehicle manufacturer or dealer may be liable for an offence under the Consumer Protection (Trade Descriptions and Safety Requirements) Act (the "CPA(TDSA)") for applying a false trade description to a vehicle or for supplying a vehicle to which a false trade description is applied.

Under the CPA(TDSA), the definition of "trade description" includes any description, statement or indication which relates to "testing of any goods by any person and the results thereof" and "approval of any goods by any person or their conformity with a type approved by any person".

The two primary pieces of legislation from a consumer liability perspective would be the Sale of Goods Act (Cap 393) (the "SGA") and the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act (Cap 52A) (the "CPA(FT)").

For example, under the SGA, motor manufacturers and trade dealers may be exposed to actions for breach of contract brought by purchasers:

  1. Under section 13 of the SGA, it is an implied condition in the sale contract that the vehicle being sold corresponds with the description. It will be a matter of construction of the contract whether a statement by the seller to the buyer that the vehicle complies with applicable emission standards forms part of the contractual description of the vehicle.
  2. Further, under Section 14(2) of the SGA, when the seller sells the vehicle in the course of business, there is an implied condition that the vehicle supplied under that contract is of satisfactory quality, with goods being of "satisfactory quality" if they meet the standard that a reasonable person would regard as satisfactory, taking into account any description of the goods, the price (if relevant) and all other relevant circumstances.
  3. Where there has been a breach of the implied condition of correspondence with description or satisfactory quality, the purchaser of the vehicle may either reject the vehicle and terminate the contract (unless the purchaser has in law been deemed to have accepted the vehicle) or sue the trader for damages for breach of warranty. Under Section 53 of the SGA, such damages would prima facie be the difference between the value of the vehicle at the time of delivery to the buyer and the value it would have had if the seller had fulfilled the warranty.

Motor manufacturers and trade dealers may also be exposed to actions brought by purchasers under the CPA(FT):

  1. Under Section 4 of the CPA(FT), it is unfair practice for a supplier, in relation to a consumer transaction, to, amongst other things, do or say anything if as a result a consumer might be reasonably misled, or to make a false claim.
  2. The Second Schedule of the CPA(FT) also specifies certain practices which constitute unfair practice under Section 4. These include representing that goods have performance characteristics, qualities or benefits that they do not have or that goods are of a particular standard, origin or method of manufacture if they are not.
  3. Section 6 of the CPA(FT) gives a consumer who has entered a consumer transaction involving an unfair practice the right to commence an action in a court against the supplier. This right is, however, subject to the amount of the claim not exceeding the prescribed limit or, where there is no claim for money, the value of the vehicle not exceeding the prescribed limit. Currently, the prescribed limit for the bringing of a claim under Section 6 of the CPA(FT) is SGD 30,000.
  4. In addition to the "unfair practice" provisions of the CPA(FT), Part III of the CPA(FT) provides additional consumer rights in relation to non-conforming goods (otherwise known as a "lemon law"). Under Part III, if a motor vehicle does not conform to the sale contract at the time of delivery and if the contract was entered into on or after 1 September 2012, a consumer has, subject to the conditions in Part III, the right to:
    1. Require the transferor to repair or replace the vehicle; or
    2. Require the seller to reduce the price to be paid by an appropriate amount; or
    3. To rescind the contract.

Tortious claims could also be brought pursuant to ordinary common law principles such as for fraudulent misrepresentation (i.e. deceit) or negligent mis-statement.

For a tortious claim, the likely measure of damages would be the diminution in value of the vehicle or the cost of taking the necessary measures to ensure that the vehicle complies with the relevant emissions standards. If deceit can be proven, then all loss flowing directly from the claimant's reliance on the fraudulent misrepresentation is recoverable, even if the loss is not foreseeable.

Representative actions

Procedurally, although there is no mechanism for US-style class action lawsuits, the Singapore Courts do permit a "representative action" under Order 15 Rule 12 of the Rules of Court.

There are two requirements to be satisfied. First, the representative claimant must demonstrate that the persons he is representing have the "same interest" in the proceedings. Second, the Court must be persuaded that it is appropriate for the case to proceed as a representative action given all the circumstances.

Order 15 Rule 12 was recently considered by the Singapore Court of Appeal in Koh Chong Chiah and others v Treasure Resort Pte Ltd [2013] 4 SLR 1204. Whilst the Singapore Court of Appeal underlined that Order 15 Rule 12 is to be applied in a broad and flexible manner in the administration of justice (at [32]), the representative claimant must still satisfy certain established criteria. One of them is the "same interest" requirement, which requires, amongst other things, that there "must be significant issues of fact or law common to all the claimants in a representative action" (Koh Chong Chiah at [78(c)]).

Whether there are significant issues of fact or law common to all claimants would depend on the facts and circumstances of each representative action coming before the courts. The full impact of "representative actions" after Koh Chong Chiah remains to be seen in Singapore.

If you would like further information on any issue raised in this article, please contact Ian Roberts and Marcus Yip.

*Marcus Yip is a Senior Associate at Clasis LLC (associated with Clyde & Co LLP).

First published in Asia Insurance Review

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions