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By Linette Heng
The New Paper
Mar 25, 2017
She was enticed by the promise of fuller-looking brows for $120.
When the administrative worker in her late 50s was approached with a flier at a heartland shopping mall last April, she agreed.
The woman, who wanted to be known only as Alice, paid a $100 deposit and went back to the shop a few days later.
She claimed the beautician tried to sell her another eyebrow embroidery service that cost over $2,000.
Eyebrow embroidery is a semi-permanent process that involves a microblade to weave pigments into the outer layer of the skin to look like hair.
Despite her protests, Alice claimed the beautician started on the more expensive procedure on her left eyebrow to show her how it would look.
"She kept talking to me during the process, and I didn't dare to struggle because she was holding a small 'knife' near my face," she said.
"It was also getting painful because the anaesthetic was starting to wear off."
Not wanting to leave the salon with uneven brows, the mother of two eventually paid more than $2,600 for a package that includes facial treatments.
Alice eventually got a refund of over $2,600 after approaching the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case).
Her experience was highlighted as an example of unfair practice to exert undue pressure on the consumer.
In the past three months, Case has received an increasing number of complaints, eight so far, about the same company, which has several outlets islandwide.
Last year, there were 15 complaints. There were five complaints in 2015 and three in 2014.
The top three complaints about the beauty industry are sales tactics, refund issues and unsatisfactory services.
According to Case's classification, the beauty industry includes facial salons and spas and does not include hair and slimming centres.
In particular, the number of complaints about sales tactics has increased over the years - 367 in 2016, compared to 269 in 2015 and 215 in 2014.
Last year, there were 1,537 complaints involving the beauty industry, slightly less than the 1,664 in 2015.
But it rose in ranking from third to second in the top 10 industries that received the highest number of complaints.
This year alone, the industry has received over 275 complaints.
Company: Customers sign consent form
The company refuted the woman's account.
A spokesman explained that customers have four options for eyebrow embroidery, which cost between $200 and over $2,000.
Before starting, the beautician will obtain the customer's consent by getting them to sign on a form.
The spokesman said they occasionally get customers who change their mind and ask for a refund.
"To prevent unnecessary drama, we'll refund customers although it is not the industry practice to do so."
She said the company had been focused on expansion last year, which could explain the increase in the number of complaints.
Know your rights. And think things over before signing a package, the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) urged customers.
"Simply leave if you feel pressured to sign up.
Consider calling the police if you are not allowed to leave the premises," a Case spokesman said.
Customers should also check the terms and conditions of the contract.
For instance, they can look out for statements such as "all payment made is not refundable" or disclaimers such as "The salon is not responsible for any failure of the treatment".
The spokesman added: "Any verbal promises made should be put down in writing in the contract."