SINGAPORE: iCrowdfund

ASIA MEDIA STAFF WRITES – Singaporean netizens recently came together on crowd-funding site Indiegogo to help a wronged Vietnamese tourist reclaim the money he lost after being scammed by a mobile phone shop in Singapore. The campaign had an original goal of raising $1,350, but ended up collecting a total of $12,431 by its close on November 12.

Pham Van Thoai was vacationing in Singapore with his girlfriend and wanted to buy her an iPhone 6 for her birthday. They went to Sim Lim Square, one of Singapore’s well-known electronic retail centers, to purchase the Apple product from a shop named Mobile Air. The store in question had already been in the news for refunding a tourist in nothing but coins.

Pham was asked to pay $732 for the phone and happily did so with the savings he accumulated from his factory job that pays him a measly monthly salary of $154. Not proficient in English, Pham did not scrutinize the documents he signed. When he was about to leave the store, the salesman said he had to pay an additional $1,158 for warranty or walk away empty handed.

Not knowing what to do, Pham broke down and tearfully begged to be refunded his money. A video on stomp shows his heartfelt appeal for the refund which was met only with one of the salesmen saying, “Hey, my friend how do you want to settle my money?” The video went viral and attracted the attention of concerned and enraged Singaporean netizens.

When the police and the Consumer Association of Singapore (CASE) were called in, Pham was only given a partial refund of $308, meaning he was still down $424. This is where the netizens of Singapore united with the intent to help Pham recoup his losses through Indiegogo.

Gabriel Kang, the man who started the crowd-funding page, met Pham before his flight home. He brought an iPhone 6 with him and also gifted Pham with local Singaporean delicacies as compensation. However, Pham only accepted the remaining money of $424 and the treats, saying: “I don’t want to take more than what I lost. I don’t deserve it.”

As for the remaining money left over from the campaign, Kang claims that it will either be donated to a charity of Pham’s choice or will be used to pay for a future all-expense-paid trip for Pham and his girlfriend.

Singapore relies heavily on tourism and if it is unable to reign in retailers who engage in such behavior, there could be a dip in tourist numbers. A recent BBC report has revealed that Chinese authorities are already warning her citizens about such scams in Singapore.

With an injunction brought against Mobile Air by CASE, it looks like authorities are trying to get back on the ball in protecting consumer rights after being shown by netizens how it’s supposed to be done.

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