Tan Siah Poh v Orient Consumer Credit Pte Ltd (Fullhouten Credit Pte Ltd and Another, Third Parties)

CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
JudgeWarren Khoo L H J
Judgment Date17 May 1999
Neutral Citation[1999] SGHC 130
Citation[1999] SGHC 130
Defendant CounselNg Hwee Lon and Carolyn Khng (Colin Ng & Pnrs),Phua Siow Choon (Michael BB Ong & Co)
Subject MatterLeasing,Entitlement to ownership of vehicle,Whether registration card document of title,Vehicle registration card,Commercial Transactions,Vehicle hire-purchase agreement,Entitlement to possession of registration card
Published date19 September 2003
Plaintiff CounselAlan Shankar (Alan Shankar & Lim))
Date17 May 1999
Docket NumberSuit No 2035 of 1997

: This case is essentially about the difficulties between two innocent parties arising from the frauds of a rogue in connection with dealings concerning a motor car, or more correctly, documents pertaining to it.

The rogue in this case was a man by the name of Michael Loh. He was the managing director of a car dealership known as Fullhouten Credit Private Ltd. He is now nowhere to be found. Fullhouten has been served a third party notice to this action, but no further steps have been taken against it. The contest here is essentially between the defendant Orient Consumer Credit Pte Ltd and the third party Sime Diamond Leasing (S) Pte Ltd.

The facts are fairly straight forward, but the effect of what happened is less so. Both Orient and Sime Diamond are in what may generally be called the vehicle financing business. Fullhouten was a dealer to both Orient and Sime Diamond, but the business arrangement it had with one was slightly different from that it had with the other. In Orient`s case, Fullhouten was its agent in the hire purchase of vehicles. Fullhouten was one of Orient`s network of dealers who were such agents. It introduced to Orient customers who intended to buy motor vehicles on hire purchase. The potential hirers did not deal with Orient direct, but through Fullhouten. They submitted their hire purchase applications to Orient through Fullhouten. When Orient had approved the application, Fullhouten would arrange for the hire purchase agreement to be signed at Fullhouten`s offices. Fullhouten was also given authority to collect the monthly hire purchase rentals from the hirer. At the end of the hire purchase term, Orient would return the registration card of the vehicle, which it had retained as security for the hire purchase financing, to the hirer. It did not do so to the hirer direct; it did so through Fullhouten.

Sime Diamond`s arrangement with Fullhouten in this case was not in relation to financing of vehicles for end-customers. It was to provide financing to Fullhouten itself to assist Fullhouten to purchase vehicles for Fullhouten`s own business of buying and selling of vehicles. Under a facility called a revolving floor stock facility, Fullhouten could draw up to $500,000 to finance the purchases of vehicles. All that Fullhouten needed to do was to submit documents to show the purchase of the vehicle for which the financing was required. These included an invoice from the vendor, the vehicle registration card and a vehicle transfer form signed by the vendor. Sime Diamond dealt only with Fullhouten. There was no contact between Sime Diamond and the vendor. Sime Diamond did not inspect the particular vehicle for which financing was sought, although it did at intervals of months conduct general audit of Fullhouten`s floor stock. So, like Orient, Sime Diamond relied solely on documents provided by Fullhouten when granting facility for any particular vehicle that Fullhouten proposed to buy.

There is a voluntary association called the Association of Hire Purchase and Finance Companies. The association membership consists of finance companies, banks, used car dealers, insurers and leasing companies. Not all such firms are members, but most are. Both Orient and Sime Diamond were members. The association maintains a computerised system for recording outstanding hire purchase agreements against vehicles. When a member enters into such an agreement, it notifies the association by lodging a form (Form A). When the hire purchase has been discharged, it also notifies the association, by lodging Form B. The forms include particulars of the vehicle and hirer, the date when the hire purchase agreement was entered into or discharged. When a member wishes to find out the status of a particular vehicle, it contacts the association. Staff at the association will then check its computerised record. If there are no encumbrances outstanding, they will reply `OK`. The computerised system covers only vehicles in respect of which forms have been lodged.

Now back to the case at hand. The plaintiff Mr Tan was buying a new Mercedes Benz 300 car. He needed financing. He entered into a hire purchase agreement with Orient, through Fullhouten. Orient, technically speaking, purchased the car from Cycle & Carriage, the distributors, and hired it to Mr Tan. Orient was the owner; Mr Tan, the hirer. The hire purchase agreement, dated 10 February 1993, provided for 48 monthly repayments, the first of $4,065 and the remaining 47 of $4,055. Orient told Mr Tan in writing to pay the monthly instalments to Fullhouten. Mr Tan arranged for his company to do so. He himself was mostly out of the country. The instalments were duly paid. The last one was paid in December 1996. By right, the registration card, which Orient had been holding as security, should then have been returned to Mr Tan. But Mr Tan did not miss it until October 1997, when he wanted to sell the car.

It was then found out that the registration card was no longer in Orient`s possession. It had been released to Fullhouten in October 1994 when Fullhouten told Orient, falsely, that Mr Tan had decided to settle the hire purchase agreement early. Fullhouten sent a cheque purportedly in settlement of the balance due. Orient...

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3 cases
  • Kenso Leasing Pte Ltd v Pang Kek alias Chang Siew Ching t/a New Lai Lai Motors and Another
    • Singapore
    • District Court (Singapore)
    • 30 September 2005
    ...but merely an appendage to the title. This is clear from the judgment of Warren Khoo J in Tan Siah Poh v Orient Consumer Credit Pte Ltd [2000] 2 S L R 215: “14. A question which has vexed the courts for many a year since the start of the motoring age is: is the registration book (the predec......
  • Kenso Leasing Pte Ltd v Hoo Hui Seng
    • Singapore
    • Magistrates' Court (Singapore)
    • 23 August 2010
    ...amiss. In determining ownership of a vehicle, it has been held by Justice Warren Khoo in Tan Siah Poh v Orient Consumer Credit Pte Ltd [1999] 2 SLR(R) 430 at [14] that “the only way to ascertain whether he is the true owner is to examine the primary facts of his acquisition of the ownership......
  • Lim Chin Liang v Toh Han Yang
    • Singapore
    • District Court (Singapore)
    • 1 April 2015
    ...the vehicle. The Plaintiff cited Tan Siah Poh v Orient Consumer Credit Pte Ltd (Fullhouten Credit Pte Ltd and another, third parties) [1999] 2 SLR(R) 430 (“Tan Siah Poh”) to support his argument that the LTA records were inconclusive as to ownership. I did not think Tan Siah Poh’s case was ......

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