The consumer watchdog has flagged two furniture retailers for failing to deliver products to customers on time after collecting their money.
But in a twist, one of the firms claimed that this happened because its customer records had gone up in flames.
The Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) received 12 and 13 complaints against Modern Living Furnishing and Contempo Art of Living, respectively, last month. Case occasionally alerts consumers to firms which had attracted a spate of complaints.
Consumers of the two firms said their orders were not delivered even though they had paid deposits and, in some cases, made full payment. Their purchases amounted to tens of thousands of dollars.
When contacted, the director of Modern Living claimed her firm was in a tight spot because a blaze at its Sungei Kadut warehouse last month had destroyed customer records.
The director, who wanted to be known only as Madam Toh, said Modern Living moved its customer records to the warehouse, a three-storey building at 65 Sungei Kadut Loop, when its shop in Park Mall closed.
A fire tore through the warehouse on Nov 2. The Singapore Civil Defence Force said at that time that the warehouse containing furniture had been completely burnt while a second-floor office unit was slightly damaged.
While Madam Toh said she did not know how many customers were affected in total, she added that some have contacted the firm via its outlet at The Furniture Mall in Toh Guan Road.
"We can deliver their orders, we just can't contact them because we don't have their details," Madam Toh said in Mandarin. She plans to contact Case to get the contact details of affected customers.
One unhappy customer who declined to be named said the firm had delivered his order of six chairs late while a sofa set, which arrived on time, had a damaged leg. He had ordered them from the Park Mall outlet in end-August.
"I've been chasing them before Nov 2. I went to their shop and I've tried calling them, but they are not taking my calls," said the 38-year-old banker.
Meanwhile, Contempo's office at its registered address in Bukit Batok was closed and its showroom in the same building was vacant when The Straits Times visited on Wednesday. Calls to the firm went unanswered.
When contacted, a former salesman at Contempo, Mr Alex Tan, said he left the company about half a year ago and he heard the firm had closed down.
Housewife Loh Say Lee, 48, had in October paid Contempo $2,000 upfront for window blinds that were due to be delivered on Nov 7. But the blinds never arrived, and she has been unable to contact the firm since. "I didn't think too much about paying upfront because I thought I'd have to pay sooner or later," said Madam Loh, who has made a police report. "I didn't think I'd be so unlucky."
Case executive director Seah Seng Choon advised affected consumers to consider filing a police report if they suspect fraud, or a claim with the Small Claims Tribunals. Consumers who are unsure may call Case for help on 6100-0315.