SINGAPORE— Claiming “Herbal Head Spa” treatment able to prevent brain diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease and brain stroke, and employed pressure sales tactics, Singapore’s Competition and Consumer Commission (CCCS) has issued a warning to Salon One Beauty Salon Pte. Ltd. and its affiliated entities.

The investigation, conducted under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act 2003 (CPFTA), revealed that between October 2017 and August 2022, the Salon One Entities were found guilty of several unfair practices.

The action taken against the salon appears to have been long overdue, considering the significant number of complaints received by the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE).

CASE President Melvin Yong confirmed in a separate statement that they had received over 130 complaints against Salon One since January 2017.

Regrettably, the statement issued by CCCS does not specify the exact number of victims affected by the unfair practices of the salon entities, nor does it provide information on the total amount of losses incurred by these individuals.

In a statement issued on Thursday (18 May), CCCS revealed that the entities falsely represented to consumers that there were price discounts for basic haircuts, when in reality, these discounts never existed as they were discounted from prices that were never offered.

Furthermore, the entities made unsubstantiated claims about their “Herbal Head Spa” treatment, asserting that it could prevent Alzheimer’s disease, brain stroke, cerebral infarction, cerebral thrombosis, cerebral hemorrhage, and enhance memory.

“Such representations were also made to certain consumers who were not able to reasonably ascertain if the claimed efficacy and health benefits of the treatments existed.”

Persistent sales tactic pressuring customers to purchase services or products

Moreover, the investigation revealed that the Salon One Entities employed persistent sales tactics, pressuring customers to purchase services or products even after they had declined or expressed no interest.

CCCS also discovered that Salon One Bukit Batok and Salon One MP560 falsely claimed significant price discounts for certain services.

For example, a price discount of $359 existed for both of their “TCM Meridian Eye Treatment and Spleen” and “Stomach Naval Candling” services, where in fact, the actual price discounts were only $159 and $59, respectively.

Additionally, banners placed outside Salon One Bukit Batok and Salon One MP560, indicating limited-time “Opening Promotions,” misled customers into believing that discounted prices were only available for a short period.

“However, CCCS found that these banners had been on display and the discounted prices were available for a sustained period which went far beyond the opening dates of both entities.”

CCSS noted that these consumer complaints and concerns were raised by the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE), which led to CCCS’s investigation.

Consumer complaints against persisted, CASE referred the salon entities to CCCS in October 2020

CASE referred Salon One AMK and three other Salon One Entities to CCCS in October 2020, after consumer complaints against these entities persisted despite these entities entering into a Voluntary Compliance Agreement with CASE in October 2019.

Salon One AMK was also issued a Company Alert by CASE in July 2019 for employing aggressive pressure selling tactics, but subsequent investigations by CCCS uncovered four other Salon One Entities engaging in similar conduct.

However, CCSS noted that the Salon One Entities took active steps to make changes to their business practices in the course of investigation, to ensure compliance with the CPFTA and removed all false or misleading claims in their marketing materials relating to price benefits, promotions and the efficacy of certain treatments in preventing medical conditions.

CCSS said the entities have agreed to discontinue the identified unfair practices and refrain from engaging in any other unfair practices.

They will also substantiate any claims or guarantees about the results, benefits, or effects of their treatments or products with scientific data or other objectively verifiable evidence.

The entities will take steps to prevent undue pressure on consumers and allow a 5-day cooling-off period for cancellations and implement an internal compliance policy and ensure staff training on unfair practices under the CPFTA.

“The Salon One Entities’ sole director, Ms Tan Yawen, has also given an undertaking to CCCS that she will not engage in, abet, aid, permit or procure any of the Salon One Entities to engage in the identified unfair practices referred to above or any other unfair practices under the CPFTA.”

“CCCS has accepted the undertakings and issued a warning to the Salon One Entities after considering the facts of the case and the steps taken by the Salon One Entities to address CCCS’s concerns. ”

CASE received more than 1,400 complaints against businesses in beauty industry in 2022

CASE president, Melvin Yong took to Facebook to express his satisfaction that Salon One has finally given a written undertaking to CCCS to stop engaging in unfair practices such as misleading and false claims and pressure sales tactics, and to give consumers a five-day cooling-off period to cancel their purchases.

He confirmed that in 2022, CASE received more than 1,400 complaints against businesses in beauty industry, where one in four complaints relate to misleading and false claims and pressure sales tactics.

Mr Yong also hoped that the CCCS’ enforcement actions against Salon One end a strong signal to the industry that businesses and will deter businesses from engaging in unfair practices that are detrimental to consumer interests.

To address the persistent problem of unfair practices in the beauty industry, He calls on the government to mandate a cooling-off period for the industry.

” Today, the laws already provide for a mandatory cooling-off period for certain industries such as insurance and direct sales. A mandatory cooling-off period will give consumers sufficient time to consider their purchase. ”

“If they do not wish to proceed with their beauty packages, they have the right to cancel and obtain refund.”

Complaint in beauty industry remains high, exposing CCCS and CASE seems out of wits to protect consumer rights

While the CASE president himself revealed that there are 1,400 complaints against businesses in the beauty industry in 2022, this also revealed the stark hard truth that neither CASE and CCCS have done enough to protect Singaporean consumer right, as unfair practice still persisted in the industry.

As mentioned in the CCCS statement, the Salon entities already entering into a  Voluntary Compliance Agreement with CASE in October 2019, but it seems the entities chose to ignore CASE and continue its unfair practices.

Under the CPFTA, CASE remains the first point of contact for local consumers to handle complaints. Retailers may enter into a Voluntary Compliance Agreement (VCA) with CASE, where they will agree in writing to stop the unfair practice, and in some cases, compensate affected local consumers or tourists.

Errant retailers who persist in unfair trade practices will then be referred to CCCS for investigation.

In recent years, TOC also reported various cases which showcase that despite numerous complaints made against some errant salon entities, they continue to operate with “unfair practices”.

For example, a story about a hair salon at Boon Lay Shopping Centre, namely Organic Salon, has faced a string of allegations of unethical acts, with numerous complaints have been made against the salon since 2020, but the shop remains in operation.

Organic Salon signed Voluntary Compliance Agreement with CASE in 2020, keep on unfair practice next year

In one incident, Organic Salon allegedly overcharged a customer, Tiew, who went for a haircut and hair treatment after seeing a banner promoting haircuts priced from S$2. Despite agreeing to pay S$228 for the services, Tiew was charged S$1,450.

The salon argued that the additional amount was for future appointments and only refunded S$725, claiming the remaining balance was for services rendered earlier that day.

This incident is not an isolated case, as a previous complaint revealed that Organic Salon charged an elderly grandfather S$50 for a haircut, claiming it included a hair scalp treatment he had supposedly agreed to.

Upon checking on CASE’s statement on 23 August 2021, CASE received 38 complaints against Organic Salon from 1 January to 23 August in that year, and the majority of complaints pertained to false/misleading claims and pressure sales tactics.

CASE stated that Organic Salon had signed a Voluntary Compliance Agreement (VCA) with CASE in 2020, and committed to cease any unfair practices and to compensate consumers who suffer loss due to unfair practices.

It appears the VCA failed to restrict Orgainic Salon to keep on with its unfair practice in the following years.

A customer filed a complaint against Organic Salon for “unreasonable charges” in May 2021, claiming that her father was initially told about a promotional price of S$3 for haircuts but was later charged S$60 for a membership card.

The salon staff also allegedly charged her father an additional S$35 for a hair wash without his consent. The customer’s mother was charged twice for a haircut and was also billed for an unwanted hair wash, with the salon staff allegedly calling them “cheapskate” and blaming them for not asking about charges.

Elderly man allegedly overcharged S$4,445 for facial treatment at a beauty salon in 2020

In another 2020 case, a beauty salon at Tampines Bus Interchange allegedly overcharged an 87-year-old man S$4,445 for a facial treatment that was advertised as S$38.

The incident, exposed by a Facebook user named Jessie Kang, highlighted the salon’s “dishonest practices” targeting senior citizens and called on the public to raise awareness to protect the elderly from deception.

The salon owner defended the charges, citing CCTV footage of staff explaining the cost of removing each oil bump, while the staff claimed that the elderly man inquired about “special services” during the treatment, despite his advanced age.

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