The problematic unit was sold by a mobile phone retailer at Lucky Plaza on Orchard Road in Singapore. Photo: Google Maps

A 30-year-old maid successfully sought help from Singapore’s consumer watchdog after being misled by a mobile retailer that sold her a region-locked handset but insisted the phone didn’t work because her SIM card was at fault.

In March last year, the woman, referred to as Valdes, who had been a domestic worker in Singapore for two years, went to Lucky Plaza with her 45-year-old friend, who was also a maid, to buy a new mobile phone, Lianhe Wanbao (Singapore) reported.

At the mall, the pair found a phone retailer full of customers, most of whom were maids, who told Valdes and her friend that it was quite a good store.

Valdes thus bought a brand-new phone for S$258 (US$196), and had her own SIM card inserted in the new device. However, to her surprise, the unit was locked. The shop assistant assured the pair that it was not a problem with the device, but that they had to contact the telecommunication operator for issues regarding the SIM card.

One week later, the women checked with the mobile operator, which informed them that the problem was that the handset they had purchased was from a different region, and was programmed to lock out a SIM card issued in Singapore.

The maid visited the retailer again to get the phone unlocked, but the manager denied it was a problem with the shop’s merchandise, and said the shop assistant responsible had quit.

The woman who had bought the useless phone thus sought assistance from the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE), a non-governmental agency.

After CASE negotiated with the retailer and warned that its actions constituted an unfair practice under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act (CPFTA), which prohibits making misleading or false claims in relation to a consumer transaction, the retailer eventually agreed to unlock Valdes’ phone for free.

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