Two Nail Palace outlets at Bukit Panjang Plaza and East Point Mall have been ordered by the court to stop misleading customers into purchasing treatment packages for fungal infections.
The nail salon chain, which has 28 outlets across the island, most of them located in heartland areas, has seen a spate of complaints about employees hard-selling products.
According to The Straits Times, the restraining orders were sought by the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) against the two outlets.
CCCS previously told Mothership in February 2022 that it had commenced legal proceedings in the State Courts against the nail salon for allegedly engaging in unfair practices under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act.
The Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) had also previously issued a warning letter to Nail Palace and flagged them out for alleged complaints relating to pressure sales tactics, after receiving 40 consumer complaints in 2021.
CASE had invited Nail Palace to enter into a Voluntary Compliance Agreement (VCA) as provided for under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act to cease its unfair practices and to compensate affected consumers in 2019.
However, Nail Palace declined to enter into the VCA, and CASE noted that they continued to receive such complaints against Nail Palace after.
Two customers paid hefty sums
With regard to the court order, the judge found that Nail Palace employees at the two outlets told customers that they had fungal infections on their toes, misleading them into signing up for fungal treatment packages, ST reported
One customer who went to the Bukit Panjang Plaza outlet in August 2020 was told the infection would spread to her other toenails if she did not treat it, and she was pushed into buying a package comprising six sessions of treatment.
She eventually forked out S$1,677.76.
The customer later found that she did not have any fungal infection on her toes after consulting a doctor. She then went to the Small Claims Tribunals to get a refund for the unused sessions.
Another customer at the East Point Mall outlet was told similar things by an employee in December 2019. She was also told that the infection would spread to her husband if left untreated.
According to ST, this customer paid for a 12-session fungal treatment package, as well as S$678 worth of lipsticks and lip balms, which the employee initially told her were free.
She paid S$11,401.92 in total and belatedly realised she paid for the lipsticks and lip balms two days later.
Must make declaration in newspapers
These two cases were submitted as affidavits by CCCS, and the judge declared that the two outlets had engaged in unfair practices under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act.
The judge also ordered the outlets to publish the declaration and the restraining order against them in full-page notices in newspapers such as ST.
For the next two years, the outlets are also required to notify customers about the declaration and restraining order before customers sign up for any packages.
Nail Palace had also submitted affidavits from two employees, its managing director, and a training manager, reported ST.
The company denied it had misled customers, and resisted the bid for the various orders.
It also refuted the customers' claims — it said that the Bukit Panjang Plaza customer asked for the treatment on her own accord after the employee said the gap in toenails could be an indication of fungus.
Although the company admitted that their staff had told the East Point Mall customer that she needed the treatment, it maintained that it was ultimately the customer's decision to buy the package.
Additionally, Nail Palace said that the customer did not have any evidence that she did not have a fungal infection.
Previous case of alleged hard-selling
In December 2021, Mothership received a complaint from a customer, whose elderly mother paid over S$11,000 worth of treatments after a single visit to Nail Palace.
The woman had racked up over S$80,000 in credit card charges since 2019 at nail salon.
The man said that the staff would repeatedly call his mother and harass her to return to the store and would prevent her from leaving if she did not purchase more packages.
In response, Nail Palace said that they do not harass customers, but only called their VIP customers to schedule appointments during the pandemic "to prevent any complaints or disappointments".
Regarding the claim that the customer was not allowed to leave the store, the nail salon said that her experience was due to "some misunderstanding", adding that she had never filed any official complaints or requested any refunds.
Top photo from Nail Palace Marcom / Google Maps