CCTVs will be installed at Sim Lim Square to monitor errant retailers

On the whole, the situation at the IT and electronics mall has improved. From January to last month, Case handled around 12 complaints against electronics retailers, down from an estimated 32 in the same period last year. -- ST FILE PHOTO
On the whole, the situation at the IT and electronics mall has improved. From January to last month, Case handled around 12 complaints against electronics retailers, down from an estimated 32 in the same period last year. -- ST FILE PHOTO
On the whole, the situation at the IT and electronics mall has improved. From January to last month, Case handled around 12 complaints against electronics retailers, down from an estimated 32 in the same period last year. -- ST FILE PHOTO
On the whole, the situation at the IT and electronics mall has improved. From January to last month, Case handled around 12 complaints against electronics retailers, down from an estimated 32 in the same period last year. -- ST FILE PHOTO

Customers will also be warned about shops that have had complaints lodged against them

Errant retailers at Sim Lim Square will soon face very close surveillance if they engage in questionable sales behaviour.

The management of the IT and electronics mall recently passed a by-law which gives it the authority to install CCTV cameras, an audio recording device and stickers in the common areas in front of shops that have had many complaints made against them.

The stickers would tell consumers to be wary of these stores.

A spokesman for the mall's management said: "Our council members suggested this and it got unanimous approval during our annual general meeting last month. We are still working out the details."

He added that the new by-law is likely to apply to stores that have had at least three complaints lodged against them with the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) and the Singapore Tourism Board.

The latest measures are a further step in ongoing efforts to rein in errant retailers at the Rochor Canal Road mall which has been dogged by a poor reputation over the years.

Last November, the unfair sales tactics of several shops at the mall - including the now-defunct Mobile Air and its owner Jover Chew - came under fire, after a video of a Vietnamese tourist begging for a refund at Mobile Air went viral in Singapore and abroad.

Since then, the Government has said it is reviewing laws to strengthen consumer protection.

Case executive director Seah Seng Choon said: "This new by-law will certainly send a strong signal to errant retailers that they would be visibly highlighted at their shop front if they engage in unfair trade practices."

Chinese evening newspaper Shin Min Daily News reported about a recent disagreement between a shop at the mall and a customer that resulted in the police being called. The customer had accused the shop staff of hitting him, but the staff claimed it was an accident and that the customer had been unreasonable.

On the whole, the situation at the mall has improved. From January to last month, Case handled an estimated 12 customer complaints against electronics retailers. Case estimated that there were 32 complaints in the same period last year.

The consumer watchdog used to come up with a blacklist of recalcitrant retailers at the mall, but there was no such list for January to March as the complaints were "few and isolated" during those months, said Mr Seah.

Despite the improvement, foot traffic from January to this month is still down by 50 to 60 per cent, compared with the same period last year, said the mall's management. It added that sales have continued to slide for many businesses, by up to about 50 per cent.

While most consumers welcome the latest measures to deter errant retailers, some question their effectiveness. Trainee lawyer Jeremiah Tan, 30, who frequents the mall for computer parts, said: "I believe if you install such a system, the misbehaving tenants will simply move out to avoid getting caught. Or they will find ways to evade the cameras and voice recorders."

Still, some of the mall's retailers feel that the new by-law will help to boost consumer confidence.

Mr Tom Tan, 59, manager of camera store Alan Photo, said: "There should be some warnings first before going to the extreme of putting up CCTV cameras, but I am not against the idea. It deters people from wrongdoing and is a good preventive measure."

cherylw@sph.com.sg