Customers have told us that these shop assistants were fierce to them. But usually when we speak to them, we are able to negotiate with them.
- Assistant director of Case's consumer relations department, Ms Juliana Ho
When dealing with customers, they employ all sorts of scare and intimidation tactics.
But as soon as they speak to a Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) officer, these Sim Lim Square mobile phone shop workers become polite and cooperative.
That is the impact that Case has on these shops that receive complaints, said its assistant director of the consumer relations department, Ms Juliana Ho.
"Customers have told us that these shop assistants were fierce to them. But usually when we speak to them, we are able to negotiate with them," she said.
Ms Ho, 40, who has been working with Case for 1½ years, told The New Paper that it is not easy handling complaints concerning errant Sim Lim Square outlets.
She said her heart sank when she watched the video of Mr Pham Van Thoai, 28, a factory worker from Vietnam, begging and crying after he had lost $550 to Mobile Air, a shop owned by Mr Jover Chew.
"We have to set aside our emotions and try to be professional when handling them," she said.
Most of these complainants are also usually tourists, she said.
"The tactics employed by these shops are usually the same. An unfair contract of sorts and the lack of transparency of prices," she said.
Case would then attempt to negotiate with the shops to refund the customers.
"There have been cases where we managed to secure a full refund for the customer. But most of the time, it's just a partial refund," she said.
Should the customers wish to take the matter further, Ms Ho said Case would advise them to take it to the Small Claims Tribunal. If the complainant is a tourist, a Case officer is also able to act on his behalf, she said.
"We will contact them and inform them the outcome of the case and help them resolve it, even if they have returned to their home countries," she said.
On Tuesday, Mobile Air was asked by Case to sign a Voluntary Compliance Agreement (VCA) because of the large number of local complaints received.
Under this agreement, the shop will have to admit that it has engaged in unfair practices, agree to stop such practices and compensate the complainants, said Case executive director Seah Seng Choon.
Since March 2004, Case has taken up about 17 VCAs against businesses with unfair practices and five injunction proceedings against errant companies.
Ms Ho's advice to customers: "Read through the contracts before signing anything. Never sign on a blank receipt. Also note that their promotional price is usually not the final price."
This article was first published on Nov 08, 2014.
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