SINGAPORE - My friend, a foreigner, bought an iPhone at an offer price of $850 at a retailer in People's Park Complex.
After payment, he was issued two invoices - a cash invoice with handwritten terms and conditions offering either a two- or three-year warranty contract at $1,917.60 and $2,156.40 respectively; and a sales invoice stating that my friend had to fulfil the terms and conditions, failing which he would have to buy the phone at the original price of $1,388.
My friend refused to sign the sales invoice and immediately demanded a refund, which was rejected.
He called the police, who advised him to lodge a complaint with the Small Claims Tribunals, which he did.
On the day of the hearing, the retailer did not turn up and my friend was granted a money order to collect a refund from the retailer. Up to now, however, he has not received payment.
Incidentally, while my friend and the retailer were having their dispute, he saw two other shoppers having similar rows with two different retailers and they, too, called the police.
It seems there are a few retailers in the same complex using similar sales tactics - offering mobile gadgets at low prices to entice unsuspecting customers, then forcing them to enter into unwanted contracts after they have made payment.
The retailer knew the money order was not enforceable unless my friend pursued the claim via a civil proceeding, which most victims probably would wish to avoid due to the trouble and cost involved.
Under such circumstances, customers would have no choice but to pay the original price.
The fact that the retailer blatantly disregarded the money order and did not even appear for the hearing showed that it knew how to beat the law. Hence, the Consumers Association of Singapore and Small Claims Tribunals must plug this loophole.
Also, the authorities ought to help victims with enforcement proceedings to recover their money without the victims having to resort to civil recourse.
Such underhanded sales tactics must stop if Singapore is to draw tourists to its shores.
This article was first published on May 28, 2014.
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