Online site charges $59.95 monthly for 'VIP' members

Ms Cheong bought the pair from myglamorous.sg in December for $19.95, after seeing its advertisements on Facebook and other sites.
Ms Cheong bought the pair from myglamorous.sg in December for $19.95, after seeing its advertisements on Facebook and other sites. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB OF MYGLAMOROUR.SG

Customer says she must log in and check a box each month to stop being charged

A $20 pair of shoes from an online site ended up costing swimming instructor Charmaine Cheong $240.

Ms Cheong, 29, bought the pair from myglamorous.sg in December for $19.95, after seeing its advertisements on Facebook and other sites.

But she realised three months later that $59.95 was being charged monthly to her debit card for being the shop's "VIP".

She contacted the site and was told that she had an option to log in every month and check a box that said "Skip this month" if she did not want to have her card charged.

"I don't think it should be done this way. It's very misleading," she said, adding that it was hard to remember to log in every month to do so.

Ms Cheong's complaint is not the first against the site. The Consumers Association of Singapore has received 10 complaints about Fashion Interactive, the company that runs the site, since it opened in November last year.

When she tried to cancel her account by e-mailing the site, this was not done and money was still deducted the next month. Her problem got solved only when her card expired in April. She did not get her money back but was told it could be used as credits to buy shoes.

She wrote about her experience on her Facebook page earlier this month to warn others about the site.

In response to queries from The Sunday Times, the site's founder, Mr Olivier Magaud, said a small portion of customers sometimes "misread" the service terms. "It comes unexpectedly as the terms of membership and pricing details are clearly stated in several locations on the website and along the purchase flow." He said they are on the first page all the way to the payment page where customers must agree to the terms of service by opting in. They are also stated in a confirmation e-mail and purchase receipts.

Ms Cheong's complaint is not the first against the site. The Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) has received 10 complaints about Fashion Interactive, the company that runs the site, since it opened in November last year, Case executive director Seah Seng Choon said. In one case, where a complaint was lodged formally, Case helped a customer get a full $240 refund for VIP fees.

Mr Seah said Fashion Interactive may have breached the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act, under which using small print to conceal a fact from the consumer or to mislead a consumer as to a fact in such sales is an unfair practice.

In a similar case last year, Case investigated online site StreetDeal for the way it charged consumers a "hidden" premium membership fee.

Case received 201 complaints about StreetDeal's membership fees from January 2014 to October 2015. The site later did away with its default membership, and sent a letter of apology to those affected.

In the current case, Mr Seah said Case has met Fashion Interactive. "They have agreed to look into each complaint lodged with Case and work towards an amicable settlement," he said, advising customers of the site with unresolved disputes to file their complaints with Case.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 19, 2016, with the headline 'Online site charges $59.95 monthly for 'VIP' members'. Print Edition | Subscribe