Sim Lim iPhone scams: Let law take care of errant retailers, say experts
By now, many would be familiar with Mr Jover Chew and his shop at Sim Lim Square.
The spotlight has recently been on him and Mobile Air after reports of foreign customers' bad experience surfaced in mainstream media.
But when Mr Chew showed no remorse in subsequent interviews, including with The New Paper, and Mobile Air continued its daily operations despite the bad press, infuriated netizens took matters into their own hands.
On Tuesday night, Facebook page SMRT Ltd (Feedback) named and shamed Mr Chew, 32, and his wife.
Photos of them, their contact numbers and Mr Chew's properties were also listed on the Facebook page.
And it seems that Mr Chew has succumbed to the pressure. When The New Paper visited Sim Lim Square yesterday, the shop was closed. Mr Chew has also diverted his calls to another number.
Previously, Mobile Air did not cease operations despite regularly making it to the Consumers Association of Singapore's (Case) blacklist of Sim Lim Square tenants.
Some businesses on the list, like Cyber Maestro, simply switch their signboards and it's business as usual.
Cyber Maestro, which was slapped with a court injunction on Monday, gave way to a new tenant, Megacentrix Technologies, and subtenant VS One in August.
But a check revealed that the person behind VS One is related to the boss of Cyber Maestro.
The two businesses also share the same registered address. The shareholders of the two businesses are husband and wife.
This is where the problem lies, said lawyer Steven Lam.
"With the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act (CPFTA), what comes out of it is a civil remedy," he said.
"You can sue the offending business, but many of them simply close down and wind up.
"Then, they open another company under different shareholders who are shadow directors."
He suggested a dedicated enforcement body to clamp down on errant retailers for more "regulatory bite".
Mr Lam also cautioned against netizens' online shaming.
"Although it may seem to be effective, don't forget there's the Prevention of Harassment Act. They have to be a bit careful about where the line is drawn."
Singapore Management University's law professor Eugene Tan feels that the netizens' disgust with Mr Chew does not justify their actions.
He said: "At another level, it's over-zealous and self-righteous. Regardless of the legitimacy of the cause, the actions by netizens are disproportionate and intrusive. Two wrongs don't make a right."
Case executive director Seah Seng Choon thinks that a civil law is sufficient for now.
"I think that for the time being, given that we have a civil law in place, this is really sufficient," he said.
"We can try to speed up our action by serving voluntary compliance agreements faster or hopefully get injunctions speedier to stop errant retailers."
Mr Seah added that Case is already "doing a lot behind the scenes" to help consumers resolve their cases.
As CPFTA is a civil act, it will take some time to go through the necessary process to stop the unfair practices, he pointed out.
"It is a big thing for the person affected, but we can't jump in at the first instant when there's a complaint. Sometimes, it may be just a one-off (incident) because of some bad employees," Mr Seah said.
"Errant retailers can continue their businesses, but they must understand that the law will catch up with them."
Rather than a legal issue, lawyer Kang Kim Yang feels that the onus is on consumers to be more cautious.
"To me, it doesn't seem like an elaborate way of deception. You may say that the retailers are morally wrong, but sometimes, they are playing within the rules," he said.
"Consumers should be reading the fine print and inquire at a few other shops before making an informed decision."
'I hope to give the Vietnamese customer an iPhone 6'
These shops at Sim Lim Square have been blacklisted by the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) for the period of August to October.
Source: Consumers Association of Singapore
$9,800 raised for Vietnamese tourist
A Singaporean's online crowdfunding campaign to help a Vietnamese tourist who was reduced to tears while seeking a refund from Mobile Air in Sim Lim Square, has gone viral.
Since yesterday, a webpage started by Mr Gabriel Kang for the tourist, Mr Pham Van Thoai (above) has received more than S$9,840 from more than 1,000 donors.
Aside from raising more than five times its $1,748 target, the page has received more than 8,000 shares on Facebook at press time.
Mr Kang's initial aim was to raise enough money to ship a 128GB iPhone 6 to Mr Pham, and some local treats to make up for his ruined holiday.
After exceeding his goal, he posted an update stating that the extra money will go towards giving Mr Pham and his girlfriend another holiday in Singapore.
Mr Kang also indicated that he would be "diverting resources" to help an international student who, like Mr Pham, was mistreated at another shop in Sim Lim Square.
Mr Kang describes himself as an "ordinary Singaporean" who felt Mr Pham "was dealt a great injustice".
The 30-year-old factory worker from Vietnam lost $550 - he earns $200 a month - trying to buy an iPhone 6 for his girlfriend from Sim Lim Square retailer Mobile Air.
While Mr Pham has since returned home, Mr Kang has sought the help of the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) to get his contact details.
However, Shin Min Daily News reported yesterday that Mr Pham declined a $550 donation from one of its readers.
While he was grateful for the gesture, Mr Pham said he was wary of the publicity and decided not to accept the offer.
He said: "I just want to put everything behind me as quickly as possible."
- GREGORY LOO