Consumer Advisory – CASE alerts consumers against aggressive pressure sales tactics in the beauty industry
 

The Consumers Association of Singapore (“CASE”) would like to alert consumers against aggressive pressure sales tactics that are used by the beauty industry during purchase transactions. Consumers who do not wish to enter into a purchase transaction have the right to decline and walk away. Consumers who encounter such pressure sales tactics can approach CASE for assistance.

 

Background

In 2018, CASE received 1,829 complaints against the beauty industry. Specifically, 344 of these complaints were made by consumers who complained about alleged pressure sales tactics, which was a 18% increase from 2017.

 

In response to the consumer complaints, CASE had issued warning letters to entities that had complaints of pressure sales complaints alleged against them. CASE warned them on the number of complaints received by consumers and of their obligation under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act (“CPFTA”). Under the CPFTA, it is an unfair practice for a supplier to exert undue pressure or influence on a consumer to enter into a transaction. CASE had also entered into Voluntary Compliance Agreements (“VCAs”) with entities where they agree to cease the unfair practice.

 

Despite its intervention, CASE continued to receive pressure sales complaints against these entities:

(i) Ecoin.Sg C Pte. Ltd. / New Station 27 Pte. Ltd. (collectively “Ecoin”);

(ii) Joyre TCMedi Spa Pte. Ltd. / Jia Le Beauty Pte. Ltd. (collectively “Joyre”);

(iii) Nail Palace Pte. Ltd. (“Nail Palace”);

(iv) Salon One Beauty Salon Pte. Ltd. (“Salon One Beauty”); and

(v) Tokyo Bust Express Pte. Ltd. (“Tokyo Bust”).

 

The full list of companies associated with (i), (ii) and (iii) can be found in Appendix 1. The number of alleged pressure sales complaints received against these entities are found in Table 1 below.

 

Entity

No. of Alleged Pressure Sales Complaints Received

Ecoin.Sg C Pte. Ltd. / New Station 27 Pte. Ltd.

26

Joyre TCMedi Spa Pte. Ltd. / Jia Le Beauty Pte. Ltd.

33

Nail Palace Pte. Ltd.

29

Salon One Beauty Salon Pte. Ltd.

21

Tokyo Bust Express Pte. Ltd.

37

Table 1: Number of Alleged Pressure Sales Complaints Received against Each Entity from 1 January 2017 to 30 June 2019

 

Complaints in the Beauty Industry

CASE takes a serious view against entities who persist in egregious conduct in their push for a sale transaction. CASE intends to engage such entities with the view of entering into VCAs with them. CASE is also monitoring entities which have entered into VCAs very closely and will not hesitate to refer errant suppliers to the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore for investigation under the CPFTA. Consumers who encounter suppliers with egregious conduct can approach CASE for assistance.

 

Consumer Tips

Meanwhile, consumers who plan to purchase beauty services are advised to take note of the following:

  • Patronise a CaseTrust accredited spa and wellness businesses. These businesses offer a five-day cooling off period for consumers to seek a refund of unutilised services if they do not wish to proceed with the packages signed. These businesses also provide a stress-free treatment as they are not allowed to engage in sales pitches during the treatment.
  • Exercise your right and walk away from a dubious deal with unclear terms or aggressive pressure sales tactics. Be polite but firm when stating your refusal. You can consider bringing a friend or family member along and/or call the police if you are barred from leaving. Remember that you always have the right to walk away and should never be restrained from leaving.
  • If you start to feel overwhelmed, uneasy or intimidated during the sales pitch, request to stop the treatment session and leave the premises. Refrain from making any financial commitments.
  • Beware of “special discount” or “one-time only” offers. Staff may take the opportunity to push packages and leave little time for consideration.
  • Seek medical consultation. Before committing to any beauty treatment or packages, it is advisable to seek the opinion of a medical doctor. 
Consumer Advisory – Consumers advised on the importance of reading the fine print when shopping online
 

The Consumers Association of Singapore (“CASE”) would like to remind consumers on the importance of reading the fine print when shopping online.

In November 2015, CASE started receiving complaints against Fashion Interactive Pte. Ltd. (“Fashion Interactive”), an e-commerce site selling footwear (website: https://myglamorous.sg). Consumers reported that they were unaware of being automatically enrolled in a VIP membership programme after making a purchase and were charged recurring monthly membership fees. They had overlooked the VIP membership enrolment as details of the programme were in fine print on the website.

After receiving the complaints, CASE engaged Fashion Interactive, which agreed to resolve all consumer disputes filed with CASE, and they have done so. They also agreed to fully refund consumers.

In addition, CASE requested for Fashion Interactive to review its online purchasing processes and conditions and to make its membership model more transparent to consumers. CASE’s position was that consumers must opt-in for the membership voluntarily and the recurring monthly charges should be clearly brought to their attention, instead of being written in fine print.

Despite informing Fashion Interactive of its obligations under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act, CASE continued to receive consumer complaints about the recurring monthly membership charges. This suggests that consumers continue to be misled when purchasing from Fashion Interactive. Between January 2017 and December 2018, CASE received 38 complaints on recurring membership charges.

Under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act, businesses cannot use small print to conceal a material fact from the consumer in connection with the supply of goods or services. CASE is of the view that any material information about a purchase, such as recurring charges, should be provided upfront and prominently displayed on the webpage.  

Meanwhile, consumers who had previously purchased goods from Fashion Interactive are advised to review their credit card statements and contact CASE if they encounter any difficulty in obtaining a refund from the business. Consumers should note that substantial discounts or benefits offered by businesses may contain hidden charges. Hence, it is important to pay close attention to the terms and conditions of a contract before making a purchase.

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