The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The curious case of CASE.

No. I was not about to write "The curious case of Benjamin Button" - which I have seen and enjoyed, by the way. This case is an altogether different CASE. CASE stands for the Consumers Association of Singapore. However, does CASE really stand for the consumer?

Now, I ask this question for one reason. CASE is not free. This really, really surprised me, since CASE represents consumers' rights in Singapore. It is the only body that I know of to which a consumer can turn, to pursue their rights. It is the conduit through which rights are protected. Yet, in Singapore, a consumer's rights are not naturally protected, for free: they have to be paid for. This must be another "Uniquely Singapore" characteristic. In all other countries that I know of, the governments have provided public bodies, for free, through which consumers can pursue their rights. No money changes hands. There is no fee to secure your rights. However, in Singapore, things are different: no fee, no rights.

If you wish to pursue a case through the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE), you first have to join as a member of the association. They won't represent non-members. Thus, in Singapore, only members seem to have rights. The fees for joining depend on your situation. The first fee they advertise is the 400 dollar fee for "Life membership". I suppose you would join that if you intend to uphold your consumer rights in many different cases, lifelong. Otherwise there are 30 dollar per annum charges for families and 25 dollar per annum charges for individuals.

So, before CASE will even hear your case, you must first join the association. (I give it a small letter because, in my opinion, any Association, which charges for consumer rights doesn't deserve a capital letter). Now, this is where it gets interesting. After you have joined CASE they will listen to your case. Only then will they decide whether or not to take your case up for you. In other words, it is quite possible to waste money joining, perhaps on a 400 dollar life membership - and have CASE refuse to take up your case. They are under no obligation to pursue your case when they hear it and they won't hear it until you have paid them.

The membership fee is not the only fee you have to pay. There is an "admin fee" for every complaint you make, depending on the amount of money involved, up to 50 dollars per complaint.

Thus, it could cost you 450 dollars just to join and initiate one complaint.

I think that CASE ought to reconsider how it funds itself. A public service such as upholding consumers' rights, should NOT come at a fee, only. CASE should be free to all. It is time that those who control Singapore's institutions thought of more than the dollars they can make out of the situation. Some things should be provided as a free public service - and the protection of consumer rights is one of them.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:46 PM 


Blogger lee sze yong said...

agree that filing consumer complaints should be free...

sadly, there is no government agency actively protecting consumer rights.

CASE, being an NGO, needs money to run its operations...

anyway, seeking advice from CASE is free; you only pay if you want them to handle your case

another option to resolve disputes is the small claims tribunals

sze yong

9:39 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thanks for your information Sze Yong.

CASE state on their website that they won't consider your case unless you are a member. They then go on to say "IF we take your case on...". This seems to be saying that it is quite possible to go to the expense of joining, then have them refuse the case.

Paying for the complaint is a separate issue.

CASE should be publicly funded. It is just not right that people have to pay to get their consumer rights, here, in Singapore. It is the only country that I know of, that does.

10:33 AM  
Anonymous tiredman said...

I also can say that only the rich can have the right.

1:46 PM  
Anonymous Joe said...

Well, it is the same as police reports. If it is not documented, it is not in the statistics.

When some worldwide surveys are conducted, Singapore becomes first world and Number One all over again.

Welcome to Disneyland with death penalty.

Thank you.

1:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nothing is free in Singapore. The old man said this before... there is no free meail in Singapore. I know of government bodies which should be expense incurring are now all profit making.. so what more do you expect from an organization such as case.


2:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that with you that one should not pay for consumer rights.
It is our right- if any company wrongs us.
Actually, I believe ST forum is a better place to shame the company and force it to take action, instead of fighting heads-on.

However, regarding public funding... i'm not in support of it.

If CASE and other services are FOC, imagine what will happen to our tax rate. I'm quite happy that our tax rate (both direct and indirect taxes) are lower than western nations. While it might mean having to pay for everything, it also means some idiot doesnt get to spend my cash for nothing, and there is no deadweight loss in the economy.

But back to the issue. Yes, consumer rights for all!!!! Actually, i feel that CASE should only be paid if the case brought forward is a ridiculous, time wasting, obviously-wrong case. At least that will prevent people from wasting resources over imaginary cases.

2:42 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Tiredman, money should not stand between a person and their rights...that is just wrong.

4:52 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Soojenn, yes, nothing is free in Singapore...but that is wrong, in the case of your rights. Rights should be free to all - for that is a basic right in all other developed societies that I have ever heard of.

4:54 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I don't think it would lead to higher taxes to have CASE free to all...there won't be that many cases.

4:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't believe you brought this up - this is something I hadn't thought about and you are absolutely right! As I have been living overseas for many years now, what you have described does not sound right. Consumer rights should be legally protected and that the onus should be on the retailer to prove that it has done nothing dodgy.

I didn't know that it would cost that much to lodge a case against an unscrupulous retailer - I think the law has to move in line with the times.

5:43 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

CASE should be publicly funded - or the retailer should be obliged to pay the costs, if they lose the case.

5:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with your idea to get the retailer to compensate the consumer for the CASE fees.

This extra burden will serve as an incentive for companies to ensure quality products, while also as an incentive for people not to waste the resources of the courts. I.e. Companies better take responsibility of its products, and consumers better make sure you have an actual case to fight.

6:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I disagree to some extent with the blog entry. Free is always subjected to abuse. A small fee takes care of that. Otherwise, it will be so difficult to filter out the real ones that need help. For those who need help genuinely, the fee is a small one. But what CASE can improve may be to refund the fee if it is successful.

Singapore has one of the most demanding consumers. Just ask your international friends how we behave overseas. We take too many things for granted. We bargin hard then don't buy. We frown when others talk too loudly on tour buses. We shower 3 times a day..... ok this one just me. In short, we're quite a fussy bunch. Sometimes it's never enough.

Imagine you are the clerk who takes your application forms at CASE. If it is free, we will "What! The bah-cho-mee uncle at the shop don't give 2nd bowl of soup? Wah lao...comprain to Forum, comprain to RC, also can comprain to CASE lah... free what. Just comprain and see how loh... nothing to lose"

Be thankful at least CASE works and when they say they handle your case, they actually do. Unlike many consumers association in other countries, which is free but application is thrown into the pile. Nothing good comes free, with the exception of our excellent free libraries.

PS: Spelling comprain above is done on purpose. Did you frown at that? See my point? Sometimes it doesn't matter as long as it gets the message across.

Jackson, Singaporean now overseas

9:01 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I disagree. Consumer rights should be free to all, no matter what. I don't think people will waste CASE's time, since they will have to waste their own filling in forms etc.

No society should put monetary barriers in the way of rights. That is a society that is seriously screwed up.

You are wrong that nothing good comes free. Many societies manage good free healthcare and education, for instance. Singapore could do the same if it wanted to. It won't though, because Singapore is all about making money, not making a good society.

I think you have imbibed the Singaporean way of thinking about money and government too much. There are other ways...better ones.

Thank you, Jackson, for your comment.

9:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also disagree with Jackson. Consumer rights should be free.
Your worry that people will abuse the system can be addressed by having the firm compensate the consumer only if the case is successful. If the case fails, then the consumer will "lan-lan" pay CASE.

Regarding your comment Mr Cawley, i disagree that Singapore should have free education and healthcare (although if i am really really self-centered, then i would demand it).

I do not wish to selfishly burden future generations with debt- as what the US and certain large (and developed) EU countries have been facing for sometime. Oh, and Japan too. But then we all are selfish people right? Only thinking for me myself and i without a care who pays eventually.
And even Japan (and others alike) have been trying to change this system, to a pay-as-you-use system.
Oh, and not to mention free education and healthcare has it's economic wastage too- But i don't think i need to dwell into that. Let's just try to clear the debt first before talking about wastage.

This system only works when
1. Young (i.e. not greying)Population--> This is how the system is sustained
2. Economy is flourishing--> No jobs=no tax= no money to finance
3. Healthy population--> So that the system is not overburdened

BUT BUT... if you're Brunei/Saudi Arabia...etc then that's different-Since they have lots and lots of black gold.

But of course, subsidized education as what we have now is a middle road. Not free, but definitely more affordable. For those who cannot afford it, then yes, society should help- I.e. all the financial schemes currently available in all universities here. Basic healthcare- yes, same thing, subsidized at polyclinics but heavily subsidized for those who require- on a case by case basis only.

Best Regards

9:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

btw anyone knows which country has a free consumer's association?

10:24 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Jackson: The UK has such things. I can't remember the name of them now...but there is a chain of bureaux designed to help people...ah yes, Citizen Advice Bureau, they are called. They assist in legal and consumer matters with advice and support - for free, as far as I am aware. I have no doubt this is normal throughout Europe.

11:25 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Free healthcare and education do not necessarily lead to societal debt. It all depends on how taxation is achieved. I don't think you have to spend more than you earn, as a state to achieve these things.

11:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, i can't think of any country that can sustain this welfare system without falling into national debt. Can you?

Re. "I don't think you have to spend more than you earn, as a state to achieve these things."

-Yes, that is true, but only because the govt borrows heavily from abroad to do so. WHICH, in the end, has to be repaid--- And by whom? Your children (and possibly grandkids) of course.
You see, while it is definitely attractive, no one country can sustain this over the span of a few generations. Just ask the developed EU countries. And by the time the system has to be dismantled, people would have gotten so used (think Japan and the protest in recent yrs over this) to it that taking this system away is nearly impossible.

And so the govt trys to adjust by borrowing even more and eventually raising the taxes.

No matter how hard one may try to squeeze money out of thin air, it is a sure-lose game of numbers.

12:25 AM  
Anonymous exsingie said...

Jackson, the US also has free consumers rights agencies, both private & public (namely either the States and/or the federal govt.)Or the consumer can


5:13 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Re. state debt.

Again, I don't think that they, if the state is disciplined and plans well, that they have to borrow to sustain a welfare system.

The problem arises when they try to spend ambitiously in many different areas: then they have to borrow.

10:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Name me a country that has managed to do so, because i cannot think of any.

Technically speaking, no matter how much a country plans, it is still doomed to fail because of the inherent flaw in the whole system, which requires a young expanding population to sustain the money spent. But as every nation has shown, one's population will eventually grey, even with migration(like the US).
And i dont even need to talk about the economic welfare lost due to a welfare system-- ironic isn't it? In trying to implement a welfare system, you need to lose a fair bit of welfare(in terms of deadweight loss).

11:17 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I am not familiar with the budgets of all the world's developed countries. I doubt, however, that all are in debt. If managed sensibly, the situation can work: all that is required is planning and correct taxation.

The welfare system is about something you are overlooking: humanity. It is a humane society that looks after its unfortunate, weak or unemployed members. Singapore is not such a humane society. It would be a better place if it was. Many people live quite difficult lives here. That could be helped, if the society wished to.

Thanks for your comment.

9:25 PM  

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