[Update on Feb. 25, 7:30pm: This article has been updated with CASE's response.]
A single mum in Singapore found herself in a dicey situation after a faulty water heater caused her circuit breaker to trip.
With "sparks coming out" and water leaking, the potential hazard led her to call for urgent help from a plumbing services company.
Workers arrived within an hour of receiving her call, and warned her of the danger in the situation.
They resolved the issue, including replacing the faulty water heater.
She duly made payment for the heater and the plumbing services, at the price quoted by the company, as she was unfamiliar with plumbing and what would be a fair price in her situation.
Woman realises she was overcharged
The woman later discovered that the new water heater she was given, a JH38 model from Joven Electric Co., only cost S$260 on Lazada — a far cry from the whopping S$2,500 that she was charged.
Her bill from the plumbers also included a S$850 charge for services rendered, adding up to a total of S$3,350.
She then contacted the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) for help, but was apparently told that "Singapore practice[s] free pricing".
The woman thus took to Facebook to highlight the situation.
Woman sought to warn others on Facebook
"No doubt I am very stupid to do it," she admitted in a Facebook comment, explaining that the potential danger in the situation made her "worried and desperate to get it fixed quickly."
She added that "the point of sharing is really to warn others", explaining that the company involved did renovation work as well, and may have overcharged others in a similar manner.
While comments on her post said that she must be wealthy to have accepted the high prices, she responded by saying that she was "not rich", and have been left with "heartache", and was even "depressed for days" after the incident.
However, she added, "if this can help others, then I find consolation."
Authorities get involved, plumber offers refund of S$2,700
The woman shared in an update to her post on Feb. 24 that the issue had been "resolved with the plumber."
She wrote that the matter had been raised to the relevant authorities, thanking the Public Utilities Board (PUB) for its "quick response and support".
The woman also told Shin Min Daily News (SMDN) on Feb. 23 that the plumber had offered a refund of S$2,700, and that the eventual price was one that she found reasonable.
She added that she has agreed to let the company do the follow-up maintenance work, including installing the new heater, and that she would consider the matter closed once that was completed.
According to SMDN, the company's boss came forward to explain that he has been in the industry for over 30 years and was not profiteering. However, the Chinese daily was not able to contact the company for further details.
In response to queries from Mothership, a CASE spokesperson confirmed that they received a complaint on the matter.
The spokesperson said:
"CASE advised Ms Lim that businesses in Singapore generally operates in a free market system where they have the right to set their own prices. CASE also advised Ms Lim that as she had entered into a legally binding contract with Kwoi Heng Plumbing Services in which she was fully aware of the price quoted and accepted, it may be challenging to get the business to refund. Nevertheless, upon further review of the complaint, CASE reached out to Ms Lim to explore possible options but have yet to hear from Ms Lim."
The spokesperson also said that "consumers are advised to do their due diligence and compare prices from different vendors before making a purchase decision."
As part of their research, the spokesperson said, consumers should also check the track record and past customer reviews of the company.
"It is challenging to dispute the prices once parties have entered into a legally binding contract for provision of goods and services," the spokesperson added.
Mothership has also reached out to PUB and the plumbing company for more information on the matter.
Top image via Complaint Singapore on Facebook