The recent news coverage has put Sim Lim Square back under the spotlight ("Black sheep and unwitting lambs"; "Mall gets 2 to 3 complaints daily", both published on Wednesday; and "Sim Lim Square seeks help to tackle 'black sheep'"; Tuesday).
The inability of Sim Lim Square's management to clamp down on dishonest retailers has set me thinking about how businesses are run in Singapore.
Singapore has consistently been ranked as the easiest place to do business in the world.
However, this has come at a price.
Anyone here can set up a company with ease. As a result, we are seeing many businesses rendering services that are of little added value to the economy.
Just take a stroll inside Sim Lim Square and you see many mobile phone shops selling the same products.
These companies are allowed to change their company names and shop signs with relative ease.
It makes me wonder whether the interests of consumers are being taken into consideration.
Another reason Singapore is ranked so highly is that businesses here are able to enforce contractual obligations.
However, this has been overly abused by retailers in Sim Lim Square.
The authorities must make clear to consumers the circumstances under which contractual obligations become void.
The police and the Consumers Association of Singapore must be given the power to void contractual obligations in small disputes, instead of bringing the matter before the courts.
Often, tourists can feel powerless when they are made to sign contracts under duress or when misrepresentations are made by the retailers.
Tan Kian Boon
This article was first published on Nov 7, 2014.
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