Sim Lim Square Mobile Air saga (2014)

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Mobile Air was a shop located on the first floor of Sim Lim Square. In 2014, the store came under fire for cheating and harassing customers. The first case of such behaviour was reported on 31 October 2014, when Mobile Air shop owner Jover Chew allegedly refunded a Chinese national S$550 in coins.[1] In 2015, a video of a Vietnamese national begging on his knees for a refund from Mobile Air employees went viral. Jover Chew and Mobile Air received much backlash from the online community for cheating and harassing the Vietnamese national.[2]

Details of the incident[edit | edit source]

First incident[edit | edit source]

The bag of coins that had been allegedly thrown on the ground by Mobile Air owner, Jover Chew. Photo from The Straits Times.

On 24 September 2014, a Chinese national and her aunt purchased an iPhone 6 Plus from Mobile Air for S$1,600. However, they were charged a further S$2,400 upon signing an alleged contract for two years of insurance.[3] This brought the price of the phone to S$4,000. The women eventually negotiated the price down to S$3,000. Although they had eventually paid for the phone, they were still unhappy with the hidden fees charged by Mobile Air. On 25 September 2014, they filed a complaint with the Small Claims Tribunal. Mobile Air was then ordered to refund the women S$1,010 by 17 October 2014.[4]


It was then reported on 31 October 2014 that Mobile Air shop owner Jover Chew had refunded the women S$550 in coins.[5] The Chinese national claimed that the coins were in all denominations, including five cents, and the Mobile Air employees had verbally abused her on top of throwing the bag on the floor and asking her to count the coins on the floor. A video of the incident had been captured and subsequently uploaded onto YouTube. (YouTube video)


When interviewed by The New Paper, Jover Chew claimed that the S$4,000 package included phone accessories and a 24-inch flat screen TV.[6] He further elaborated that he did not have the chance to inform the women about these add-ons. He also claimed that the women could have rejected the coins but they did not do so. During the interview, he showed The New Paper reporters a six-second video on his phone, in which the Chinese national’s aunt could be seen struggling with a Mobile Air employee over the bag of coins while raising her voice at him.[7]


Between July 2014 to September 2014, the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) was alerted to 14 complaints against Mobile Air by consumers.[8] CASE then launched an investigation to uncover if Mobile Air had possibly violated the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act.

Screengrabs from the viral video showing Pham Van Thoai kneeling on the floor of the shop. Photo from AsiaOne.

Second incident[edit | edit source]

On 3 November 2014, Vietnamese tourist Pham Van Thoai purchased an iPhone 6 for his girlfriend from Mobile Air for S$950. After making the purchase, he was told that he had to pay an additional S$1,500 for the warranty. Pham Van Thoai was a factory worker in Vietnam and had been in Singapore on holiday.[9] He earned about S$200 monthly and had taken a few months worth of his salary from his savings in order to purchase the phone for his girlfriend. Upon asking for a refund, the staff only offered him S$600.[10] His girlfriend had refused to accept the partial refund and demanded a full refund from the shop. Pham Van Thoai then kneeled on the floor of the shop to beg the employees for a full refund.[11] The employees had laughed at him and even filmed him begging for the refund. The police and CASE stepped in eventually and Pham Van Thoai received an additional refund of S$400 from Mobile Air.[12]


Like the previous incident in October 2014, a 24-second video documenting the kneeling Pham Van Thoai had been uploaded onto YouTube. (YouTube video) The video had gone viral online with netizens expressing their outrage at the behaviour of Mobile Air for scamming and then mocking the Vietnamese national.[13]

Responses[edit | edit source]

The shopfront of Mobile Air which has since closed down. Photo from Under The Angsana Tree.

SMRT Feedback Ltd and netizens[edit | edit source]

On 4 November 2014, satirical Facebook page SMRT Feedback Ltd posted the personal details of Mobile Air shop owner Jover Chew online. The page source is no longer publicly visible. The personal details released included the addresses of his various businesses, shirtless photographs and his mobile number.[14] They had also allegedly made large orders from McDonalds and Pizza Hut which they had delivered to Jover Chew’s home address.[15]


On 5 November 2014, Singaporean Gabriel Kang started a campaign on crowdfunding website Indiegogo to purchase a new iPhone 6 for Pham Van Thoai.[16] As of the campaign’s closure, the campaign had raised approximately S$15,500. Gabriel Kang later purchased a new iPhone 6 Plus for Pham Van Thoai but the Vietnamese man refused the gift.[17] Pham Van Thoai only accepted about S$200 of Singaporean food items as well as S$550 from a local businessman who wanted to reimburse him for the money he had lost to Mobile Air. He stated that he did not want to “take more than” what he had lost and expressed his gratitude to those who donated to the campaign.[18]

Politicians[edit | edit source]

Bukit Timah GRC Member of Parliament Liang Eng Hwa, who is also the chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Finance and Trade and Industry expressed his disapproval towards errant retailers. He suggested that the Ministry of Trade and Industry should review the current consumer protection laws in order to better protect consumers from uncooperative and abusive retailers.[19]  


Mountbatten GRC Member of Parliament Lim Biow Chuan, who is also the president of CASE, pushed for amendments to be made to the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act. He wanted CASE to be able to prosecute companies guilty of errant behaviour. Currently, CASE can only take civil actions such as issuing court orders against these companies.[20]


Law Minister K. Shanmugam also expressed that “Anytime people behave badly, even one incident, it can impact on the image of Singapore”.[21] This statement was made with regards to an advisory notice that China issued to warn its citizens about shopping in Singapore.


Second Minister for Home Affairs S. Iswaran also urged the public not to take matters into their own hands and assured that the Ministry is looking to improve on current measures to better protect consumers.[22]

Court hearing and sentence[edit | edit source]

On 1 October 2015, the employees of Mobile Air were found guilty of the following charges.[23][24]

Name Sentence Charged with
Koh Guan Seng 1 year and 2 months jail term Abetment by conspiracy to cheat involving S$9,789
Kam Kok Keong 11 month jail term Abetment by conspiracy to cheat involving S$5,860
Lim Hong Ching 6 month jail term Abetment by conspiracy to cheat involving S$1,600
Kelvin Lim Zhi Wei 4 month jail term Abetment by conspiracy to cheat involving S$330

On 30 November 2015, Mobile Air owner Jover Chew was sentenced to a jail term of 2 years and 9 months and fined S$2,000.[25] Prior to his punishment, Jover Chew had also reimbursed S$12,199 to the 26 victims of his unfair business practices.[26]

References / Citations[edit | edit source]

  1. Law, Elizabeth. “Sim Lim Square shop owner can't explain why he paid in coins”. The New Paper. November 2, 2014. Accessed on 29 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://web.archive.org/web/20141225000405/http://news.asiaone.com/news/singapore/sim-lim-square-shop-owner-cant-explain-why-he-paid-coins
  2. Chew, Hui Min. “Mobile Air boss Jover Chew gets chewed online for bullying Vietnamese tourist”. The Straits Times. November 6, 2014. Accessed on 29 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/mobile-air-boss-jover-chew-gets-chewed-online-for-bullying-vietnamese-tourist
  3. Loh, Ronald. “Sim Lim Square shop pays $1,010 refund in coins”. The New Paper. November 1, 2014. Accessed on 29 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://web.archive.org/web/20141129103801/http://news.asiaone.com/news/singapore/sim-lim-square-shop-pays-1010-refund-coins
  4. Loh, Ronald. “Sim Lim Square shop pays $1,010 refund in coins”. The New Paper. November 1, 2014. Accessed on 29 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://web.archive.org/web/20141129103801/http://news.asiaone.com/news/singapore/sim-lim-square-shop-pays-1010-refund-coins
  5. Law, Elizabeth. “Sim Lim Square shop owner can't explain why he paid in coins”. The New Paper. November 2, 2014. Accessed on 29 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://web.archive.org/web/20141225000405/http://news.asiaone.com/news/singapore/sim-lim-square-shop-owner-cant-explain-why-he-paid-coins
  6. Law, Elizabeth. “Sim Lim Square shop owner can't explain why he paid in coins”. The New Paper. November 2, 2014. Accessed on 29 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://web.archive.org/web/20141225000405/http://news.asiaone.com/news/singapore/sim-lim-square-shop-owner-cant-explain-why-he-paid-coins
  7. Law, Elizabeth. “Sim Lim Square shop owner can't explain why he paid in coins”. The New Paper. November 2, 2014. Accessed on 29 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://web.archive.org/web/20141225000405/http://news.asiaone.com/news/singapore/sim-lim-square-shop-owner-cant-explain-why-he-paid-coins
  8. “CASE to probe Sim Lim mobile shop after coin incident”. AsiaOne. October 31, 2014. Accessed on 29 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.asiaone.com/singapore/case-probe-sim-lim-mobile-shop-after-coin-incident
  9. Baker, Jalelah Abu. “Vietnamese tourist in Sim Lim Square incident says he is not accepting any more help”. The Straits Times. November 6, 2014. Accessed on 29 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/vietnamese-tourist-in-sim-lim-square-incident-says-he-is-not-accepting-any-more-help-0
  10. Baker, Jalelah Abu. “Vietnamese tourist in Sim Lim Square incident says he is not accepting any more help”. The Straits Times. November 6, 2014. Accessed on 29 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/vietnamese-tourist-in-sim-lim-square-incident-says-he-is-not-accepting-any-more-help-0
  11. Baker, Jalelah Abu. “Vietnamese tourist in Sim Lim Square incident says he is not accepting any more help”. The Straits Times. November 6, 2014. Accessed on 29 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/vietnamese-tourist-in-sim-lim-square-incident-says-he-is-not-accepting-any-more-help-0
  12. Baker, Jalelah Abu. “Vietnamese tourist in Sim Lim Square incident says he is not accepting any more help”. The Straits Times. November 6, 2014. Accessed on 29 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/vietnamese-tourist-in-sim-lim-square-incident-says-he-is-not-accepting-any-more-help-0
  13. Alexandra School of Science. "Vietnamese tourist begging Sim Lim Square stall to return him his $1,500". YouTube. November 5, 2014. Accessed on 3 June 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k06jhvOGbpQ
  14. Xue, Jian Yue. “Netizens expose personal data of Sim Lim Square mobile shop owner”. Today Online. November 6, 2014. Accessed on 29 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/netizens-expose-personal-data-sim-lim-mobile-shop-owner
  15. Goh, Darian.  “How Netizens Taught An 'Evil' Singaporean Shop A Lesson For Cheating This Man”. Says. November 5, 2014. Accessed on 29 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://says.com/my/news/how-netizens-taught-an-evil-singaporean-shop-a-lesson-for-cheating-this-man
  16. "We need to make this right, send him an iphone6!". Indiegogo. Accessed on 29 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/we-need-to-make-this-right-send-him-an-iphone6#/
  17. Aw, Cheng Wei. “What happened to the money raised for scammed Vietnamese tourist?”. The Straits Times. March 28, 2015. Accessed on 29 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/what-happened-to-the-money-raised-for-scammed-vietnamese-tourist
  18. Baker, Jalelah Abu. “Vietnamese tourist in Sim Lim Square incident says he is not accepting any more help”. The Straits Times. November 6, 2014. Accessed on 29 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/vietnamese-tourist-in-sim-lim-square-incident-says-he-is-not-accepting-any-more-help-0
  19. Wee, Cheryl Faith. Aw, Cheng Wei. “MPs call for stiffer laws to tackle errant retailers”. The Straits Times. November 6, 2014. Accessed on 29 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/mps-call-for-stiffer-laws-to-tackle-errant-retailers
  20. Wee, Cheryl Faith. Aw, Cheng Wei. “MPs call for stiffer laws to tackle errant retailers”. The Straits Times. November 6, 2014. Accessed on 29 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/mps-call-for-stiffer-laws-to-tackle-errant-retailers
  21. Aw, Cheng Wei. Ee, David. “Measures to protect consumers being considered: Iswaran”. The Straits Times. November 9, 2014. Accessed on 29 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/measures-to-protect-consumers-being-considered-iswaran
  22. Aw, Cheng Wei. Ee, David. “Measures to protect consumers being considered: Iswaran”. The Straits Times. November 9, 2014. Accessed on 29 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/measures-to-protect-consumers-being-considered-iswaran
  23. Chong, Elena. “Jover Chew's four accomplices plead guilty to cheating charges”. The Straits Times. October 1, 2015. Accessed on 29 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/courts-crime/jover-chews-four-accomplices-plead-guilty-to-cheating-charges
  24. Chong, Elena. “4 shop salesmen jailed in Sim Lim cheating case”. The Straits Times. October 15, 2015. Accessed on 29 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/courts-crime/4-shop-salesmen-jailed-in-sim-lim-cheating-case
  25. Chong, Elena. “Jover Chew, former boss of Mobile Air, jailed 33 months for conning customers, also fined $2,000”. The Straits Times. November 30, 2015. Accessed on 29 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/courts-crime/jover-chew-former-boss-of-mobile-air-jailed-33-months-for-conning-customers
  26. Chong, Elena. “Jover Chew, former boss of Mobile Air, jailed 33 months for conning customers, also fined $2,000”. The Straits Times. November 30, 2015. Accessed on 29 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/courts-crime/jover-chew-former-boss-of-mobile-air-jailed-33-months-for-conning-customers