FROM July 1, shoppers with grievances against any retailer in Sim Lim Square can lodge a complaint right there at the IT mall.
A kiosk will be set up at its information counter on the first floor, where people can log on to computers and make a complaint directly to the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case).
Case will take action within three days.
This move against errant retailers is especially to help tourists who form the majority of shoppers at the Rochor Road mall, said its management corporation yesterday.
The complaint kiosk is a collaboration between Case and the management corporation and it is a pilot project that will be reviewed after three months.
If found successful, similar kiosks are likely to come up at other malls across the island, said Case president Yeo Guat Kwang, adding that the consumer watchdog will encourage malls to install them and help to train staff to use the system.
The move to establish a convenient system for complaints is also a prelude to the introduction of the new 'lemon law' in September, when sellers will be legally required to repair, replace or give refunds on defective goods. It is expected to lead to more consumer complaints for Case.
Shop owners at Sim Lim Square who attended its annual general meeting (AGM) last year gave the nod to the setting up of the complaint kiosk, said the management corporation's vice-chairman Kwek Theng Swee.
'Most of our customers are tourists and don't know where to lodge complaints. We want to make sure people continue to shop here.'
He added that aggrieved consumers can turn to staff at the information counter for help to make a complaint, which Case will send on to the management corporation.
Case has received 113 complaints so far this year against the mall's retailers. Last year, it got 183 complaints, a rise from 162 the previous year. In 2009, 235 complaints were received.
These form a tiny proportion of the more than 20,000 complaints Case receives each year. Still, the number is alarming enough for Case to monitor the complaints against Sim Lim Square.
Most were about being overcharged or sold defective goods. Others were about salesmen who hardsell, misleading claims about products or failure to honour refunds.
In a case in January, a man bought an Apple iPhone 4 for $600 and was offered an application download service for $5 more. But he was eventually charged an extra $477 for the downloads - the salesman claimed they cost about $5 each. The salesman withheld the phone when he refused to pay.
The mall's management corporation had tried to clean up its tarnished image for years. In 2003, for instance, it had a scheme to highlight honest merchants. They were given stickers to paste on their shop fronts, certifying them as a 'STARetailer'.
Part of the problem is that the shops in the strata-titled mall are individually owned, so a tenant evicted by one landlord for unethical business practices can rent another unit and continue selling.
Also, errant landlords who use their units for business can hardly be evicted as they own the shop.
The latest move to improve its image, however, drew mixed reactions from retailers interviewed yesterday.
The director of Edison Electronics, Mr Lee Chow Yin, 35, hopes it will be a deterrent.
'Retailers who cheat people bring a bad name to the mall. It affects our business,' said Mr Lee, who voted for it at the AGM.
But the manager of Mobile Apps, Mr Bert Tan, 55, is not in favour of it, saying it will lead to more complaints, 'more work for us to do'.
'Not all complaints are reasonable,' he said. 'Prices here are not fixed, so who's to say someone got cheated?'
He added that with competition being fierce, rival shops may tell consumers they had been cheated and egg them on to make a complaint.