Buyers lodge police reports over $65k worth of furniture

Artmani Italia's showroom doors were locked when The Straits Times visited the premises yesterday. Some people who work in the building saw movers loading furniture from the showroom onto a lorry.
Artmani Italia's showroom doors were locked when The Straits Times visited the premises yesterday. Some people who work in the building saw movers loading furniture from the showroom onto a lorry.ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

Upfront payments made to firm that is believed to have shut down

Complaints against furniture companies may be down, but this is no balm to Ms Karen Teo and many others in the same boat.

Ms Teo, an associate director of a recruitment agency, was hoping that a two-seater leather sofa she bought would be the centrepiece of her new home, after she moves in soon after Chinese New Year.

But she is now missing a sofa, and is $3,000 poorer. She had paid furniture company Artmani Italia in two instalments - one last July and the other two weeks ago - and the firm promised to deliver the sofa to her flat in Boon Keng in early February.

But Artmani Italia is believed to have shut down, leaving Ms Teo and about 50 others in the lurch. These customers, part of a WhatsApp group, are owed around $65,000 worth of furniture, and they have lodged police reports.

When The Straits Times visited Artmani Italia's premises in an industrial building off Hougang yesterday, the firm's showroom doors were locked.

 
  • DOING BETTER

    162

    Complaints lodged at Case against furniture companies last year.

    15%

    Drop in complaints last year from the year before.

At another two units listed under the firm's name, letters from the landlord were pasted on the front doors, stating that no one was allowed access to the units with effect from Jan 18, unless authorised to do so.

Others who work in the building saw movers loading furniture from the showroom onto a lorry.

Ms Jeslyn Chan, a catering sales manager from an eatery next to the showroom on the first storey, has seen aggrieved customers trying their luck day after day, with some even banging on the doors loudly.

"I was shocked. It was like they (the firm) were gone overnight," said the 39-year-old.

Attempts to reach the company were unsuccessful.

The Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) said there have been 15 complaints against Artmani Italia since Jan 1 last year.

Still, the industry has been doing better. Last year, there were 162 complaints lodged at Case against furniture companies, a 15 per cent drop from 190 the year before. This year, there have been eight so far.

Case executive director Loy York Jiun, who took over the job this year, advised consumers to do their research into a furniture company's reputation and delivery track record. They can also pay a small deposit instead of the full amount upfront before delivery, and ensure that any negotiations, such as the delivery date, are put down in writing. These, he said, would help to minimise their risks when selecting a furniture company, and their losses in the event of business closure.

One possible avenue for redress for the likes of Ms Teo is to file a claim with the Small Claims Tribunals. For now, she has bought another sofa from another company, with delivery expected in March.

She still finds it hard to believe that she and her husband could have lost money like this.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 25, 2017, with the headline 'Buyers lodge police reports over $65k worth of furniture'. Print Edition | Subscribe