Manpower Minister says laws may be reviewed to better protect consumers

A notice on the second level listing names of shops that were complained against in Sim Lim Square on Nov 6, 2014. -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
A notice on the second level listing names of shops that were complained against in Sim Lim Square on Nov 6, 2014. -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE – Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin has suggested in a Facebook post that some laws may need to be reviewed to deal with errant business owners, in light of the recent Sim Lim Square incident in which a Vietnamese tourist was allegedly scammed.

"We should see how to strengthen or adjust our laws to deal with these cases where individuals face such hurdles to seek resolution," Mr Tan wrote in a post on Thursday evening. 

He added: “Some are disputes that may fall short of violating any laws or regulations, but they clearly assault our sensibilities!”

Vietnamese tourist Pham Van Thoai was reportedly scammed while buying an iPhone 6 at mobile phone shop Mobile Air in Sim Lim Square, and asked to pay $1,500 in warranty fees after signing an agreement. He was seen begging for his money back on his knees in a video.

The incident has inspired an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for Mr Pham, and instances of online vigilantism against the shopowner of Mobile Air, Mr Jover Chew.

Mr Tan wrote in his Facebook post that he was “shocked at the behaviour shown”, and that the case reminded him of similar concerns some of his residents have raised. He listed errant contractors and “scam investors” among them.

He also said that while Singapore operates closely to the law, there may be some cases where "the laws do not provide for particular actions and even if we may not like it, we can't go beyond the remits of the laws. So in these instances, we may have to review it.”

“But we also know that there are errant consumers. And I get appeals from business owners and employers too,” he added.

He wrote that they faced similar issues in disputes between workers and employers, which was why the Ministry of Manpower will be setting up an Employment Claims Tribunal, “to help with some disputes that are not presently covered directly by regulations”.

 

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In Parliament on Wednesday, Holland-Bukit Timah GRC MP Liang Eng Hwa called the situation “unacceptable”, while Mountbatten MP Lim Biow Chuan, who is also the president of the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case), told The Straits Times on Wednesday that he will be raising the issue in Parliament.

They also suggested that the Government should review existing consumer protection laws.

chuimin@sph.com.sg