Case turns to court to bring Mobile Air to heel

The Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) has decided to take out an injunction against Sim Lim Square retailer Mobile Air after the firm refused to sign an agreement to stop its unfair practices, Case said in a media release yesterday.

The injunction, if granted by the court, orders Mobile Air to refrain from engaging in unfair practices as stated in the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act. If the firm breaches the injunction, it may be charged with contempt of court, making the owner liable to a jail term or fines, said Case executive director Seah Seng Choon.

Mobile Air had a week to sign the Voluntary Compliance Agreement (VCA) to pledge to stop its unfair practices but refused to do so.

The firm landed in the spotlight after it reportedly used questionable sales tactics on a Vietnamese tourist, Mr Pham Van Thoai, who said he paid $950 for an iPhone 6 but was asked to pay another $1,500 for a warranty before the shop would hand over the phone.

Images of the factory worker kneeling down to beg for a refund made it to the media and were circulated online, leading netizens from the satirical Facebook group, SMRT Ltd (Feedback), to splash shop owner Jover Chew’s personal details online.

A check by The Straits Times last night found that the Facebook page of SMRT Ltd (Feedback) had been removed, though its Twitter account was still active. Police confirmed they had received several reports against Mobile Air, as well as a related report of intentional harassment, and were investigating.

Some 86 complaints were made against 10 stores in Sim Lim Square between August and October this year. Mobile Air has chalked up at least 25, topping the list, Case said.

The shop has been closed for over a week.

In any case, applying for an injunction against Mobile Air is likely to take some time, said Case. To do so, it has to seek approval from its relevant committees as well as the Injunction Proposals Review Panel at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, before applying for the court order. The whole process might take several months, said Case.

Case will also crack down strongly on errant traders who have refused to stop their unfair practices despite repeated warnings, it said.

Meanwhile, the Government is also studying other measures to protect consumers better, said Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade and Industry S. Iswaran. “This may take some time especially if we need to amend our laws,” he said in a Facebook post last Saturday.

"More immediately, we are working with Case and other stakeholders to educate consumers on their rights, so that they do not fall prey to such sales tactics, and know where and how to seek recourse when necessary," he added.