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Errant retailers could be charged under criminal law

Police action in the case of dishonest retailers like Mobile Air is a positive step forward and acts as a strong deterrent, said Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) president Lim Biow Chuan.

He said: "Previously, the police would refer the consumer to Case whenever there was a dispute.

"But I think the police should investigate when there is strong evidence that the retailer has been dishonest. For instance, when there are many complaints against the same retailer."

Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck said in a statement yesterday after meeting the management of Sim Lim Square: "While the police are investigating the case, we are also looking at enhancing our laws, strengthening the enforcement process and continuing with our engagement efforts."

Mr Lim, a partner at law firm Derrick Wong & Lim BC LLP, thinks such errant retailers could possibly be charged under criminal law.

For instance, they can be charged for misappropriation if they retain the goods after payment has been made, or charged for cheating if they ask for extra payment for warranty when the phone already comes with a warranty.

NEEDS TIME

But Mr Lim, who is also MP for Mountbatten, noted that any change in the law would require time and clear guidelines on when the police can take action.

"Not every consumer dispute involves a dishonest retailer.

"Often, when the police arrive at a dispute, it's not a straightforward case. It's the customer's word against the retailer's."

How about targeting the "big boss" of such retailers?

Checks on these retailers reveal that they are often registered under the same person or parties related to him.

This would be a challenge because it requires changes to corporate law, said Mr Lim.

Most retailers are registered under a limited liability entity, which allows the business to operate and function as a separate legal entity.

This means the individual behind the entity cannot be sued in a civil action suit.

While the police are investigating the case, we are also looking at enhancing our laws, strengthening the enforcement process and continuing with our engagement efforts.

- Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck