Beauty salon slammed for linking free package to SRA

Beauty salon slammed for linking free package to SRA
A screenshot showing what a beauty salon texted customers, linking a free facial package worth $180 to purchases made through the Singapore Retailers Association.

SINGAPORE - A beauty salon has come under fire for linking a free facial package worth $180 to purchases made through the Singapore Retailers Association (SRA).

Calling it a "scam" by Absolute Skin using SRA's name to "boost business", SRA on Wednesday made it clear it had no part to play in the offer.

The salon had texted or called customers saying it was offering the package, which included a scrub, detox and a collagen mask, because they had made regular purchases from SRA using ePayments. SRA was listed as "Singapore Retail (sic) Association" in the text.

But SRA, which has fielded about four calls since last Thursday asking about its links with Absolute Skin, insisted it is only a trade association, and does not sell anything to the public or have any sort of loyalty programme.

It wrote to Absolute Skin on Wednesday evening, telling it to stop the claims immediately.

If it does not, SRA will take legal action, executive director Lau Chuen Wei told The Straits Times. The letter was sent by post to the salon's International Building address as the manager declined to reveal her e-mail address.

"In such cases, even one complaint is sufficient to make the company the culprit of misrepresentation - which is a serious offence," said Ms Lau. "Sad that they feel they need to resort to such tactics."

Last year, another beauty treatment outfit claimed it was offering free treatments paid for by the SRA to selected customers. SRA, after warning of legal action, has not heard any complaints against the company since.

When The Straits Times called the number listed for Absolute Skin on, a staff member answered inquiries curtly, and gave scant information. She said questions about the offer should be directed to the "call centre" instead, but refused to give a contact number.

One of the texts sent to a customer was signed off by an Absolute Skin employee named Sarah. When The Straits Times tried this number on Wednesday and yesterday, the phone was switched off.

Part-time tutor Chua Bee Lian had called SRA to check on the offer after getting a call from Absolute Management on Wednesday, which told her it was calling on behalf of the salon. "They told me, 'It's a joint effort with SRA. We are not a scam'," said the 52-year-old.

"Maybe they pulled in SRA to make it sound more convincing. But I find it very suspicious. If I take the offer and go down to the clinic, they'll probably pester me to buy more packages."

A check with the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) showed one complaint was made in 2012 against Absolute Management, the administrative arm of Absolute Skin.

Case executive director Seah Seng Choon called Absolute Skin's tactic unfair, and said consumers can approach Case for help in seeking redress under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act. "There is no such thing as a free lunch in this world. Gifts are generally tactics used by marketers to attract consumers and such offers should always be treated with extra caution," he said.

If customers receive offers from businesses using the SRA's name, they should call the trade association on 6295-2622.

This article was published on April 4 in The Straits Times.

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