Consumer watchdog discussing action against Huawei

Some members of the public seen outside the Huawei store at Nex shopping mall in Serangoon on Friday. Many consumers who queued up for the Huawei Y6 Pro were disappointed and angry. Huawei has apologised for the insufficient supply, saying it had rec
Some members of the public seen outside the Huawei store at Nex shopping mall in Serangoon on Friday. Many consumers who queued up for the Huawei Y6 Pro were disappointed and angry. Huawei has apologised for the insufficient supply, saying it had recorded an "unprecedented surge of demand".ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

The consumer watchdog has contacted the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) to discuss actions that could be taken against tech giant Huawei for a recent controversial promotion of a smartphone that led to ugly scenes at its stores across Singapore.

Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) president Lim Biow Chuan said in a post on his personal Facebook page yesterday that he believes the advertisement to be misleading, and a breach of consumer protection laws.

"Like many other consumers, I received the advertisement inviting me to buy the Huawei Y6 Pro for just $54," he wrote, adding that he thought it was a good deal until he read about the unhappiness caused.

The promotion, which slashed the price of the Huawei Y6 Pro 2019 from $198 to $54 for Singaporeans and permanent residents above the age of 50, began last Friday and was supposed to run until Sunday.

But it was cut short when the 27 stores selling the phone sold out within hours, in some cases before stores had even opened. Rowdy crowds led to the police being called in at several outlets, including at Nex mall, and led to early shop closures.

"To me, the Huawei advertisement is a breach of the Consumer Protection Fair Trading Act (CPFTA)," wrote Mr Lim, adding that he hopes the CCCS will issue a public reprimand of the company.

Mr Lim, who is Mountbatten MP, told The Straits Times that the issue lies with the fact that the Huawei advertisements did not specify that stocks were limited.

"Under the CPFTA, there's a rule against advertising certain products when you do not reasonably believe that you have enough," he said.

"You cannot in good conscience run an ad with such limited stock that it's sold out even before your shop opens. It's either poorly planned or a misrepresentation of what you're trying to do."

Huawei did not say how many phones were made available for the promotion, though some customers said they were told by staff that there were fewer than 40 phones allotted per store.

Mr Lim, 56, said that he has asked his staff at Case to consult the CCCS on whether there has been a breach of the rules, and if so, what action should be taken.

 
 
 
 

Under the CPFTA, Case is the first point of contact for complaints, while persistently errant retailers can be referred to the CCCS for investigation. The CCCS can file an injunction application with the court to stop Huawei from continuing an unfair practice, though Mr Lim said the firm is unlikely to repeat the ad.

Still, Mr Lim said the Chinese phone maker should be taken to task as consumers were inconvenienced and public resources were wasted as police had to be called in to manage crowds. "I think it is important to signal to other retailers that this is not acceptable," he said.

Huawei apologised on Friday for the insufficient supply and said it had recorded an "unprecedented surge of demand".

The offer was held in conjunction with Singapore's 54th National Day, to "celebrate the generation that made great contributions to the nation's development", it said.

SEE FORUM 

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2019, with the headline 'Consumer watchdog discussing action against Huawei'. Print Edition | Subscribe