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Shamed Sim Lim Square retailers change signboards

Building management had pasted on walls and lift lobbies a list of shops that ripped off customers. -TNP
Koh Hui Theng

Mon, Apr 08, 2013
The New Paper

SINGAPORE - With apologies to the Bard, it seems that things aren't exactly smelling of roses at Sim Lim Square.

In February, the building management pasted on the complex's walls and lift lobbies a list of the shops that ripped off customers.

Now, some of these shamed shops have taken to changing their signboards to bypass bad press.

Their names, previously splashed in big type on the shopfronts, have now shrunk and are displayed on a small section of the sign board.

One of the shops that had a different name still printed its invoices bearing the old name.

In extreme cases, these errant retailers may even have gone for a drastic makeover - with a brand new name to boot. And it's perfectly legal for them to do it.

A Sim Lim Square spokesman said that shopkeepers in the complex who change their signboards simply have to alert the management beforehand and pay $26.75.

He said: "While we strive to keep tabs on the black-sheep retailers, (our hands are tied) as they are not breaking any rules by changing the signs."

And the retailers are being inventive as well.

Said the spokesman: "Last time, the shop name would take up maybe 90 per cent of the signboard. But now, some of the shops which were listed have put up signs with their names (occupying) 10 per cent of the space."

The errant ones are found mainly on the first three storeys of the complex. The majority sell mobile phones, tablets and phone accessories.

Changing signboards isn't the first attempt these black-sheep retailers have made to get around being named and shamed.

Shortly after the lists were put up, The New Paper reported how some lists were ripped off by unknown culprits.

Although the culprits were caught on camera, it was not possible to identify them from CCTV footage as it only showed the backs of the culprits.

The Sim Lim Square spokesman said the list-ripping stopped after the media reports.

Warning

This name-and-shame list is the latest attempt from the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) to warn customers about errant retailers at Sim Lim Square, which has around 400 shops.

But it's not just the naughty ones - who make up less than three per cent of tenants - that get publicity.

Case and the Singapore Tourism Board have also worked with the building management to alert shoppers to retailers who give honest service through the CaseTrust accreditation and "STARetailer" schemes.

The latest list from Case shows the shops that received the most number of complaints over a three-month period from December to February this year.

The management cannot kick these black-sheep retailers out because Sim Lim Square is a multi-strata titled building.

This means that individuals own the shops, with some owners running their own shops and others leasing it out.

A salesman at one of the shamed retailers that had changed its signboard said in Mandarin that the shop did not change hands.

"It's still the same people and same business. (It's) just the sign and the shop name that's different. The boss is still the same."

When asked why the name and sign had changed, he simply shrugged. The man added that his boss was overseas on a buying trip and would be back only next month.

At another shamed retailer, a salesman said: "When I came back from leave (last month), it was already like that." Pointing at the new signboard, he added: "My boss put it up. You have to ask him why."

His boss did not answer our many calls.

While there's nothing wrong in changing signs, Case executive director Seah Seng Choon said that those who change their business names or addresses without registering with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority may be violating the law.

Even if the business names and signboards are changed, Case can still invite the owners for a voluntary compliance agreement (where the shop voluntarily agrees not to engage in the unfair practice) or take out an injunction against them - as long as ownership remains the same.

Mr Seah added: "We would like to urge the Sim Lim Square vendors named on the list not to engage in hide-and-seek tactics but to put in efforts to improve their service to avoid consumer complaints and keep their names out of the list."

NAMED AND SHAMED

Shops with more than one complaint: (From December 2012 to February 2013)

JW World: 12

Mobile Apps: 5

SMS Gaming LLP: 5

3Plus Mobile LLP: 5

Cyber Maestro: 4

Elite 3 Mobile: 4

Ray Technology: 3

Wee Mobile: 3

Square United Cam: 2

Source: Consumers Association of Singapore

kohht@sph.com.sg


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