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    May 22, 2015

    Three strikes and you're marked, says Sim Lim to errant shops

    ERRANT retailers in Sim Lim Square will soon face very close surveillance if they engage in questionable sales behaviour.

    The management of the IT and electronics mall recently passed a new by-law which gives it the authority to install closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras, audio recording devices, standees and stickers in common areas in front of shops that have had many complaints made against them. The standees and stickers would tell consumers to be wary of these stores.

    Said a management spokesman: "Our council members suggested this and it got unanimous approval during our annual general meeting last month. We are still working out the details."

    He added that the by-law is likely to apply to stores that have had at least three complaints lodged against them with the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) and/or the Singapore Tourism Board.

    The latest measures are a step forward in ongoing efforts to rein in errant retailers at the Rochor Canal Road mall, which has been dogged by a poor reputation over the years.

    In November, the unfair sales tactics of several shops at Sim Lim Square - including the now-defunct Mobile Air and its owner, Jover Chew - came under fire, after a video of a Vietnamese tourist begging for a refund at Mobile Air went viral online here and abroad.

    Since then, the Government has said it is reviewing laws to strengthen consumer protection.

    Said Case executive director Seah Seng Choon: "This new by-law will certainly send a strong signal to errant retailers that they would be visibly highlighted at their shopfront if they engage in unfair trade practices."

    Chinese evening newspaper Shin Min Daily News reported on a recent disagreement between a shop at the mall and a customer that resulted in police being called in. The customer had accused the shop staff of hitting him, but the staff claimed it was an accident and that the customer had been unreasonable.

    On the whole, the situation at the mall has improved. From January to last month, Case handled 12 customer complaints against retailers of electronics. There were 32 complaints in the same period last year.

    Case used to come up with a blacklist of recalcitrant retailers at the mall, but there was no such list for January to March this year as the complaints were "few and isolated" during those months, said Mr Seah.

    Despite the improvement, foot traffic from January to this month is still down by 50 to 60 per cent, compared to the same period last year, said the mall's management. It added that sales have continued to slide for many businesses, by up to about 50 per cent.

    While most consumers welcome the latest measures to deter errant retailers, some question their effectiveness. Said trainee lawyer Jeremiah Tan, 30, who frequents the mall for computer parts: "I believe if you install such a system, the misbehaving tenant will simply move out to avoid getting caught. Or they will find ways to evade the cameras and voice recorders."