A single mother who was overcharged by a plumbing services company—namely Kwoi Heng Plumbing Services—to change her faulty water heater has finally been offered a refund of S$2,700 by the company after her case went viral on social media.
The woman, named Jamie Lim, had earlier shared the incident on the Complaint Singapore Facebook group, saying that she sought plumbing services from the company after a faulty water heater caused her whole house circuit breaker to trip.
Desperate to get it fixed quickly, Mrs Lim did not hesitate when the plumber charged her S$2,500 for a new water heater—a JH38 model from Joven Electric Co—and another S$850 fee for services rendered.
She has paid S$3,350 in total to Kwoi Heng Plumbing Services, but later discovered that the new water heater only cost S$250 on Lazada.
Mrs Lim then reached out to the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) and lodged a complaint about the incident, but to no avail.
She was told by the CASE that “Singapore practice[s] free pricing”.
Mrs Lim then took to social media to highlight the incident, hoping that her sharing would serve as a warning to other people about the company as she noted that Kwoi Heng also takes renovation works.
“How can we all spread the word about this company since the authorities won[‘t] do anything?” she wrote in the comment section of her post.
Her post has garnered about 287 shares and 112 comments at the time of writing, and was also picked up by Mothership.
A few days later, Mrs Lim updated her post saying that “the issue has been resolved with the plumber”.
She thanked everyone who has supported her to bring up the case to the relevant authorities, adding that the Public Utilities Board (PUB) has taken a “quick response and support” on the matter.
Mrs Lim also told Shin Min Daily News on Tuesday (23 Feb) that she has been offered a refund of S$2,700 by the plumber and has agreed to let the company do the follow-up maintenance work, including installing the new water heater.
Her case, however, has shown how voicing out on social media would be more effective to resolve an issue, rather than complaining to CASE.
Similar cases in the past
TOC has reported similar cases in the past.
Back in 2014, the Singapore Police Force confirmed that police reports were lodged against the now-defunct Mobile Air Pte Ltd, situated at Sim Lim Square, for allegedly unfair and dishonest sales tactics.
It is said that some customers were coerced into buying mobile phones and in-house warranties at inflated prices due to hidden terms and agreement in the sale contract. The customers were given the choice of paying for the grossly inflated mobile phones or pay fees to cancel the deal.
The CASE also revealed that the mobile phone shop received over 25 complaints from the public from August to October 2014.
However, both the police and the CASE did not take any action on the reports and complaints.
They only took action—by detaining five men related to the company and its former owner Jover Chew—after a video of a Vietnamese tourist begging on his knees in tears for the return of his money went viral.
The tourist had paid $950 for an iPhone 6 which was meant for his girlfriend, but was told that he had to pay $1,500 more in warranty fees or forfeit both the mobile phone and his cash.
Other cases involved a furniture shop named SOS—sometimes called Collective Living, Prestige Modern Space Living, Teak & Co—which had trapped several couples who were eager to furnish and upgrade their living space by cheating them out of tens of thousands of dollars and delivering shoddy work.
All these cases involve the same company and sometimes even the same person, named Ben or sometimes as Brandon Toh.
In November last year, a woman named Lene posted on “SG Blacklists Profiteering Retailers” Facebook group saying that the store had overcharged her and her partner for their deposit—charging S$5,000 instead of the actual amount of S$1820—but refused to refund the excess.
When they requested to cancel the order entirely and get a full refund, they got nowhere.
The couple had filed a police report on the matter as well as a claim with the Small Claims Tribunal which has ordered the furniture store to make a full refund.
There have been several other similar cases like this involving this furniture store as well as the person named Ben—some of which involved over S$40,000, and shoddy renovation works which require major rectification.
One person paid Ben to do some interior designing and renovation work on their home in August 2020, costing roughly S$86,000. They’ve paid up about S$60,000 so far but the work is not even nearly up to par.
Ben had apparently agreed to refund the woman S$20,000 on 2 February this year but she hasn’t received a single cent.
Another woman has hired the company for renovation works as well and purchased some furniture from them. However, he had made a mess of the carpentry and wet works. She terminated the contract.
She had already forked out roughly S$26,000 for the works including about S$8,000 for furniture which was delivered to the house while the renovation was ongoing.
Yet another person who hired this name found that he has just dismantled her cabinets, stuck some stickers on it to make it look new and reattached it. His shoddy work extended to using glue to attach tiles and neglecting to do waterproofing works where needed.
Now, several of these victims have made police reports against Ben and the company, but to no avail. They also attempted to seek redress in the Small Claims Tribunals.
TOC understands that this Ben person is involved in a few other corporate disputes, and that the person in charge of these stores, Ms Lou Zou Yee, who was listed as the director of the company, has not been called in for questioning by the police.
In fact, it was said that the police are not exactly treating these cases as cheating but merely a “dispute”.
This is where the furniture delivery tactic comes in. Once the furniture is delivered, the victims can’t quite claim that they have been cheated since they did receive furniture. It then becomes just a dispute on the furniture that was delivered—in terms of dimensions, quality, etc.
Lene approached CASE and asked them to list this company’s address as a company alert list. In response, they said that there needs to be a lot of complaints against the company before they can put the company up. Lene asked, “how to, when they can change (their company name) everyday?”