More protection for hair salon customers against sudden closures with new initiative

Customers will have better protection against the sudden closures of hair salons.
Customers will have better protection against the sudden closures of hair salons.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - When a well-known hair salon chain closed last August, hundreds of consumers were left with unused packages that they had paid for.

The Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) and the Hair & Cosmetology Association (Singapore) (Hacos) are partnering to prevent a repeat of such incidents.

On Thursday, they signed a memorandum of understanding to develop an accreditation scheme for the hair industry in the next nine months.

Salons that sign up will have to meet strict criteria to assure customers.

These include training staff not to hardsell, having appropriate hygiene guidelines and conducting a skin allergy test on customers before a treatment.

Companies that offer prepaid packages will have to protect their customer's money by insuring their customers against sudden closures or using prepaid cards - where the money is held by a third party and disbursed to the business only after the consumer has redeemed a treatment session.

Consumers who change their minds after purchasing packages can get a full refund within five days of signing up for the service.

There will also be proper mechanisms to settle disputes if customers are not satisfied with the service.

Case received 484 complaints last year about hair salons, including around 200 complaints from customers of The Scissorhands and its affiliate Shizahanzu, which shut abruptly in August last year(2015). There were 462 complaints in 2014.

Victims were told to seek claims through the Small Claims Tribunals, but were not successful when the chain's director did not turn up. Several police reports were also lodged over the chain's closure.

Hacos has 208 members, of which 15 have pledged to join the scheme.

Mr Simon Lee, founder of Hacos, said he hopes the scheme, which is voluntary, will help to win back the confidence of consumers.

Meanwhile, Case advised consumers to weigh the benefits and risks before buying prepaid packages.

"Consumers should bear in mind that they may be unable to get back their monies if the salon ceases operation or goes into liquidation," said Case president, Mr Lim Biow Chuan.

He added that Case hopes to introduce consumer education lessons in secondary schools in the near future.