Singapore's consumer watchdog is taking to court a furniture businessman who allegedly collected money upfront for goods he later failed to deliver.
The Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) received 44 complaints against Mr Chiok Wee Juo's three companies between 2008 and last month.
Mr Chiok is the sole proprietor of all three - Olena (formerly known as Mattress Atrium), Bez Gallery (formerly known as Michelle Mattress) and The Exquisite Promenade.
By taking him to court, Case seeks to have Mr Chiok declared as having carried out unfair practices. It also seeks a court order to stop him from continuing such practices.
Nine complaints were lodged in the first seven months of this year, from January to July, Case said in a statement yesterday.
In most of the cases, Mr Chiok - who also goes by the names Pierce or Yi Ren - persuaded the customer to pay, usually the full sum, upfront, promising to deliver the furniture at a later date. At times, he would say that he was giving them a special price to convince them to make a full payment.
Many of the transactions took place at furniture fairs. Goods were allegedly not delivered by their promised delivery dates, and were often a different size, colour or model from what was ordered.
This is the sixth injunction application by Case since 2004. The last was against the now defunct timeshare company Concord Developments in 2012.
Case took this rare step as it had tried many times to contact Mr Chiok, but received no response, Case president Lim Biow Chuan said. Mr Chiok also ignored Case's request in May to sign a voluntary compliance agreement to stop his unfair business practices.
If the court order is granted and Mr Chiok breaches it, he may be charged with contempt of court, making him liable to jail or fines.
IT executive Alvin Khoo, 35, paid $6,000 for a sofa, bed frame and mattress at Bez Gallery at Marina Square in May last year.
The store closed last December and the items were never delivered. He filed a claim with the Small Claims Tribunal, but Mr Chiow was a repeated no-show at the hearings.
Mr Khoo has set up a support group on messaging app WhatsApp with "victims" he found on online forums. The group of 28 bought $96,901 worth of furniture from Mr Chiow and all of them have made police reports, said Mr Khoo.
On Case's injunction bid, he said: "I hope some justice can be done."
Another victim, a 50-year-old housewife who declined to be named, called Mr Chiok a "smooth operator" who speaks well and conducts himself professionally.
No one was home when The Straits Times visited Mr Chiok's listed address yesterday.
Both his and his wife's mobile numbers were no longer in service, and neither were the three companies' main lines.
Mr Chiok's case is scheduled to be heard in court on Aug 28.
Mr Lim advised consumers to shun businesses with negative reviews. "We also advise consumers not to pay a large deposit and to pay the rest of the purchase price only when the furniture is delivered on time and in good condition."
This article was first published on August 7, 2015. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.