You may really have liked the salon, the package may be really cheap or perhaps the salon has so much hardselling, you eventually sign up a package that may be worth hundreds or thousands of dollars.
You continue to go there regularly for salon treatments until one day, the unimaginable happened.
You cannot get through the phone. The shop itself is closed...
And you still have hundreds and thousands of dollars left in your unused salon treatments!
What CAN you do in the circumstances?
To help you navigate through this difficult time, we contacted CASE and Small Claims Tribunal to see what you CAN do.
Even if you are not affected by this closure, read our top 10 tips on what you should do to protect yourself from unethical salons!
CASE or the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation that helps to protect customers' interests and promote fair and ethical trade practices in Singapore.
While CASE can help to mediate Consumer-to- Business disputes when unethical sales practices are implemented e.g. hardselling, misleading sales claims, unfair sales practices and defective goods, their powers in helping customers affected by the closing of a salon is limited. CASE is unable to contact the salon to negotiate for a settlement of the dispute if the salon has ceased operations and is no longer operating at their premises.
When we contacted CASE about a specific case of a salon closing down, they referred us to the Small Claims Tribunal. If you are unclear about the documents and procedure to file a claim at the SCT, you can approach CASE for free advice and assistance (www.case.org.sg).
The Small Claims Tribunals (Tribunals) are part of the State Courts of Singapore. They have the jurisdiction and legislative power to ensure that such claims are being addressed through extensive mediation and finally, a court hearing if mediation fails.
However, they are subjected to quite a few constraints so do check them out to see if your claim fulfills their requirements.
The Small Claims Tribunal only has jurisdiction if and ONLY IF the company is still LIVE and operating.
Therefore, you have to check if the company is still operating to see if you can go ahead with a claim with The Small Claims Tribunal.
How do you check if the company is still in operation?
1. Go to http://www.bizfile.gov.sg
2. Search for the status of the entity by entering the various possible names
3. You will have to login to Singpass to access the page.
4. Check Company Status
5. If the Company is live, you can go ahead to purchase their business profile.
This is essential later when filing your claim!
The Small Claims Tribunal also has a very clear jurisdiction.
These are the other conditions your claim has to fulfill:
Check the full Small Claims Tribunal checklist here to see if you are eligible.
It is best to file the claim AS SOON AS POSSIBLE to ensure that the company is still live and that the one year deadline has not passed.
Assuming that your claim passes all the above tests, you can download the appropriate forms here: https://www.statecourts.gov.sg/SmallClaims/Pages/Forms.aspx
The forms you may need are:
The Small Claims Tribunal has also kindly provided guides to help you fill in the forms.
Credits: Small Claims Tribunal
Memorandum of Consent
Don't rush to the Small Claims Tribunal immediately.
Ensure you bring all the required documents before you go down!
Note that the Small Claims Tribunal imposes a small administrative charge to take care of your claim depending on how much your claim is.
This charge can be paid in cash, NETS or by Cheque. (No Credit Card!)
Do also note the operating hours for filing if you are planning to go down:
Mondays to Thursdays* : 9.00am to 5.00 pm
Fridays*: 9.00am to 4.30 pm
Saturdays*: 9.00am to 12.00pm
These are the other things you should consider before starting a small claim:
In the unfortunate event that the company is terminated, even the Small Claims tribunal would not have the jurisdiction to help you mediate or resolve the claim.
In that situation, you would have to consult a lawyer to sue the company under civil proceedings.
We are however not sure if the time, effort and money will be worth it.
From what we see on Legal Help, a free legal forum, you are unlikely to recover anything especially if the company became bankrupt since their assets have exceeded liabilities... even if you had a case against them.
If you want to pursue further, it might be worthwhile to contact the Community Legal Clinic where you will be able to see a lawyer on a one-to-one basis for 20 minutes free.
Find out more about your nearest Community Legal Clinic here
Going through such a situation can be really distressing and time-consuming... and many a times, it is uncertain if you can get your money back.
It is therefore best to avoid getting into this situation altogether. To help you do so, we have come up with 10 tips on how you can avoid losing money to unethical salons in Singapore!