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The Sim Lim Square fiasco, and how you can protect yourself

“You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious,” said Obi Wan Kenobi of the space port Mos Eisley in the film Star Wars. However, judging by the worldwide press coverage of recent weeks, he might as well have been talking about Singapore’s very own Sim Lim Square.

As news of unpleasant sales tactics a certain outlets in the six-storey mall spread around the world, it’s opened a discussion on how you can protect yourself against errant traders.

Sim Lim Square came to worldwide attention last month as the story of a Vietnamese customer who had to resort to tearful begging on his knees to get a refund from one trader. The same outlet – Mobile Air – also became infamous after offering a rare refund to a customer, attempting to pay back over S$1,000 in coins.

According to recent reports in the Straits Times, the owner of the Mobile Air phone shop has now sold the business after the negative publicity, and it’s due to re-open soon under a new name. The Consumers Association of Singapore said there was an injunction pending against Mobile Air after it refused to sign an agreement to end its unfair trading practises.

So, we all know that Sim Lim Square has a bit of a reputation, and it’s a brave customer that sets foot inside. Granted, some traders there are as honest as the day is long, but it’s the rogues that have given it a “Mos Eisley” reputation not just at home, but around the globe. And – of course – you can get ripped off wherever you are.

What can you do? Turn to your credit card for help. Most people don’t know that your credit card offers you return protection on your goods. This means that your credit card company will return the cost of an item if the retailer refuses to do so.

Both Visa and Mastercard offer this service up to S$250 if the item was bought using one of their cards. AmEx offers coverage up to S$300, double if you take out a protection programme policy with the company. It’s worth checking out the fine print on your card to see how they can help you in a dispute.

Card purchase protection from your bank is just one of the many ways that a good premium credit card makes your life easier. It’s good to know they’ve got your back, both in Sim Lim Square and the world beyond.