SINGAPORE (THE NEW PAPER) - Some would-be customers of a skincare clinic were shocked to receive a lawyer's letter threatening them with legal proceedings over their negative online reviews.
Several of them told The New Paper they had visited Dore Aesthetics some time during the last two months after seeing an advertisement on its website that offered a "free trial".
But they were told at the Robinson Road clinic that they would only get the free trial after signing up for a package, and they left disappointed.
The would-be customers, who did not know one another, then gave Dore Aesthetics a one-star review on Yelp, a social networking website that lets users post reviews and rate businesses.
Then earlier this month, they received letters of demand sent by Parwani Law acting for Dore Aesthetics. The letters demanded they remove their reviews or face legal proceedings.
When contacted, Parwani Law's managing director, Mr Vijai Parwani, told TNP: "We do act for Dore Aesthetics and our clients had highlighted some reviews, which were potentially defamatory of our clients.
"Most of the reviewers removed the post and the matter ended there."
However, some reviewers noticed that the letters they received were not from Parwani Law but instead bore the letterhead of Dore Aesthetics.
These letters had a virtually identical format as those sent by Parwani Law, but they were signed off by the "legal department" of Dore Aesthetics.
Mr Parwani said his firm had nothing to do with these letters.
"As to the other batch of letters sent out by our clients on their own letterhead, we are not aware of them and hence can't comment further on them," he said.
One recipient who wanted to be known only as Wi showed TNP her letter, which stated that it had been sent by Dore Aesthetics' "legal department".
The letter, which did not mention a lawyer or law firm, said that if Wi failed to comply with its demands, it had "instructions to commence legal proceedings" against her.
Lawyers contacted by TNP said the language used in the letter was potentially problematic.
Criminal lawyer James Ow Yong of Kalco Law, who saw the letter, said it was worded "as though it was from a lawyer or law firm".
He noted that it is an offence under the Legal Profession Act for an unauthorised person to act as an advocate or a solicitor.
"If an unauthorised person on behalf of a claimant writes, publishes or sends a letter or notice threatening legal proceedings other than a letter or notice that the matter will be handed to a solicitor for legal proceedings, he may be guilty of an offence," he added.
Just last month, the boss of a debt collection firm pleaded guilty to 40 counts of being an unauthorised person acting as an advocate or solicitor.
He had sent out letters of demand to debtors claiming to be a legal consultant and threatening legal proceedings.
When contacted last Friday, a spokesman for Dore Aesthetics declined to comment.
A check on the Yelp page of Dore Aesthetics shows that dozens of one-star reviews had been posted since October, but almost all have since been taken down.
As of last Friday, only two five-star reviews remained on the page, both by accounts created this month.
Wi said she has reached out to other reviewers who had taken down their posts, and found that most of them had also received letters of demand.
"They threatened us with legal action. We are all so traumatised and fearful, and all we did was leave a review," she said.