Landlord thinking of kicking out Mobile Air owner
The most notorious shop owner in Singapore, Mr Jover Chew, might get kicked out of Sim Lim Square soon.
His landlord is thinking of terminating his contract and has been trying to reach him, revealed the management of Sim Lim Square at a press conference in the mall yesterday.
Mr Chew had rented the shop through an agent and the landlord was apparently unaware of his unscrupulous business tactics until recent media reports, said Sim Lim Square management's chairman Raymond Chua.
Mr Chew's Mobile Air and other errant retailers at Sim Lim Square have been in the spotlight in the past week following a barrage of bad press over unfair and bullying sales tactics. (See report above.)
But these errant retailers are "black sheep" who make up less than 2 per cent of the nearly 500 retailers of the mall, said the management.
At the same time, the management council's members, who either own shops or are landlords there, appealed to government agencies for help to tackle these errant retailers.
In particular, Sim Lim Square management's vice-chairman, Mr Kwek Theng Swee, asked if the Government could look into making these unfair practices criminal so that the customers can seek recourse.
"We understand that this requires changing the law, and we have spoken to Case and various government agencies," said Mr Kwek.
He said that although Mobile Air's actions were "unforgivable," the management does not have the "right" to do anything to these errant retailers.
He explained that Sim Lim Square is a multi-strata titled building, with 450 shops, 500 retailers and multiple owners.
About half of the owners also operate their own shops, while the others rent out their space.
And it is up to individual landlords to decide who their tenants are.
Mr Kwek said that they also hope to tweak the management law, such that a change in tenant would require permission from the management.
He said: "These recent cases are hurting the reputation of the place. If human traffic decreases, then rents fall.
"So the landlords should wake up and not just be happy to collect rent. They should also take part in the management of the place and take notice of their tenants."
He added that the management's responsibility mainly involves maintenance, repair and cleaning, but they have "gone beyond their scope" to promote the place.
For instance, they have spent millions on building a covered walkway and upgrading the mall's infrastructure.
The management is also hoping to change the "mindset" of these errant retailers by "encouraging" them to join their STARetailers initiative.
Shops have to be complaint-free for nine months before they can apply for and be accepted in this initiative. If successful, they will be given a sticker on the floor of their shop front and a poster to display in the shop. About 300 retailers at Sim Lim Square are part of this scheme.
Mr Kwek said: "We want to remind these errant retailers that they will not have an easy time. Everywhere they go, they get scolded... You can't earn much from these tactics...
"Why conduct business in such a way and hurt everyone, including yourself?"
"If human traffic decreases, then rents will fall. So the landlords should wake up and not just be happy to collect rent."
- Sim Lim Square management's vice-chairman Kwek Theng Swee
SIM LIM SQUARE NOTORIETY GOES GLOBAL
The outcry over errant retailers at Sim Lim Square has been brewing for years.
But the furore hit a crescendo this week, after Vietnamese tourist Pham Van Thoai was seen crying while kneeling at mobile phone shop Mobile Air, begging for a refund.
He had been told to pay $1,500 for the warranty of a $950 iPhone 6 that he had paid for.
The incident came a week after the same shop refunded a Chinese student $1,010 in coins.
She had earlier been asked to pay $1,400 on top of the $1,600 that she had paid for an iPhone 6 Plus.
She took her case to the Small Claims Tribunal, which ordered the shop to refund her $1,010.
Following news reports on the incident, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs posted a notice on its website on Wednesday, warning Chinese tourists about shopping for mobile phones in Singapore.
The notice said there had been many cases of fraud when Chinese tourists purchased electronic goods like mobile phones. It reminded tourists to look out for notices of errant retailers put up in the malls.
Sim Lim Square's notoriety worsened after Vietnamese media picked up on the plight of Mr Pham.
International news agencies such as Agence France-Presse and the BBC also reported on the incident and the story was picked up by major news websites in Britain and Australia.
POLICE SHOULD STEP IN: MP
Member of Parliament Lim Biow Chuan, who is the president of the Consumers Association of Singapore, has filed a parliamentary question to ask if errant retailers at Sim Lim Square should be dealt with appropriate police action.
Referring to the recent cases at Mobile Air, he told The New Paper last night: "For such cheating cases, the police should investigate further and where there is sufficient evidence, charge the culprit. This will send a strong message to the other like-minded retailers that they have to conduct their business in an honest manner."
Mr Lim added that the consumer alert notices put up at Sim Lim Square have been effective in bringing down the number of complaints, from 108 in 2012, to 87 in 2013.
But he added that the management has limited powers.
"They are also concerned that their actions should not be construed to be defamatory of the retailers concerned," he said.