Be careful when you shop in Sim Lim Square

Posted by Silamban under News on 2 December 2002

I thought that I will share this story with everyone so that at least one person would escape getting ripped off by the errant traders at Sim Lim Square (for that matter, anywhere in Singapore, not only at Sim Lim Square). And we also had a request from the authorities to share this information to educate the consumers that help is available.

I had a visitor from overseas over the week-end, who has come to Singapore to attend a seminar. Apparently she had gone to Sim Lim Square to buy a Digital Camera at a shop on the first floor.

However, in the end she had been coerced to buy a different camera than what she intended to buy having been told that it is a better and newer model. She paid $1200. As I later found out when she visited us, she had even been charged separately for accessories which come standard in the package.

Figuring out that she had been cheated, I suggested that we go back to the shop and ask for a complete refund or at least a refund for the overcharged amount. And I also did some research to find out what this particular camera would cost elsewhere. I was surprised to hear some shops telling me that this model was a very old model.

Then I went to the said shop on Saturday and inquired about the same model pretending that I am a genuine buyer. And guess what, I was told a price which was $500 less than what my friend had paid, for the standard package (with all the standard accessories). Two minutes later I walked in to the shop again with my friend and explained to them that they have overcharged my friend for the same camera and requested for a refund.

What happened afterwards cannot be really explained in a few sentences. They vehemently refused to hear our request and started using abusive and filthy language at my friend and threatened us. We had to leave.

Some of the bold remarks they made about their stand in selling a product at what ever the price they want went like this (translated in to decent language): "We have even sold the same camera at $2000". "You do what ever you can, but we will not give anything back".

We were shown a Recommended Retail Price suggested by the manufacturer and they insisted that they are selling at the correct price. (Subsequently it was discovered that this RRP they showed was released as way back as in January 2002). Sensing that things can turn more violent, we left the shop and went to the police station. But the police refused to accept our complaint saying that it was a personal transaction and that they cannot intervene. They suggested that we contact Singapore Tourism Promotion Board. After we came back home, we called the Singapore Tourism Promotion Board and were told that we could lodge a complaint at "Retail Promotion Centre". However, the "Retail Promotion Centre" was not open on Saturday afternoons. My guest decided to stay back until Monday so that she can lodge a complaint. On Monday a complaint was lodged at Retail Promotion Centre. Subsequently, they called us and informed that the shop has agreed to settle the matter and asked us to go to the shop.

But upon visiting the shop, the staff there were pretending that they never agreed to settle the matter. Their answer was "If RPC called somebody here, you find that person and inquire, we do not know ...". Then I had to call the officers at RPC a couple of times and while my friend was at the shop these officers tried to settle the matter over the phone with the shop owner, but they still refused. My friend spent 4 hours waiting there and came home with no luck. By this time we had given up hope of any settlement and were wondering why Singapore had no organization with the authority to help a tourist/consumer in a situation like this.

The sales guy had been making humiliating remarks like "You wait here until 8 o'clock and nothing will happen ..". And moreover we were surprised to observe how confident these guys were in making such remarks. What was more surprising was that my friend had witnessed 3 more similar sales to unwary tourists while she was waiting at the shop. Same camera, same model !!! (at the end we concluded that this shop must have got a stock of outdated models, most likely at very cheap price, and selling them based on this so called "recommended retail price".)

However, the next day morning, RPC called us and suggested that we lodge complaint at "Small Claims Tribunal". RPC had also verified that the said model was in fact a discontinued model by the manufacturer and the last Recommended Retail Price was released in January 2002.

So my friend visited the Small Claims Tribunal and was surprised to see so many tourists lined up there with similar claims. However, she was immediately informed that an officer would visit the shop with her and would try to settle the matter then and there. And so they did. The officer had walked in to the shop with a claim report and the shop had agreed to give a full refund without any questions/remarks whatsoever (repeat: no questions/remarks). Surprise !!!!

And my friend has been asked by these officers to share this information to let everybody know that there is help available to stop these errant traders from cheating innocent consumers. They indeed want consumers (victims) to come to them. The claims can be made within a year from the date of purchase. Claims can be made even when the item has been used, depending on the type of claim.

The "Small Claims Tribunal" is located at the following location: Small Claims Tribunal 2 Havelock Road #05-00 Apollo Centre, Singapore 059763 The telephone number I was given was 6241-3575. But their web site has the following numbers: Tel No. 6435-5937, Fax No. 6435-5994 (general)

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