Did you know that you are not legally required to have a fire extinguisher at your HDB home?
However, in Singapore, certain buildings must be equipped with fire extinguishers. This discrepancy has led to some confusion, prompting a few fire extinguisher sellers to devise creative, albeit deceptive, sales strategies.
In one instance, this even necessitated police intervention.
Here’s what happened.
3 People Reportedly Tried to Sell Fire Extinguishers to Over 10 Shops in Ang Mo Kio
Three individuals reportedly attempted to sell fire extinguishers to a number of shops in Ang Mo Kio.
Claiming that they represent a fire safety equipment company, the trio allegedly utilized intimidating sales tactics, falsely invoking “regulations” from the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to coerce over 10 shop owners in Ang Mo Kio into buying fire extinguishers and medical kits.
According to the president of the Ang Mo Kio Constituency Merchants Association, these individuals were spotted near AMK Hub on 5 September and 6 September, trying to sell safety equipment to more than 10 shops.
Their aggressive and fearmongering approach, which included threats of substantial fines if the purported SCDF and MOM “regulations” were not followed, raised suspicions among many business owners, who feared a scam.
This concern sparked a series of discussions in the merchants’ association chat group, culminating in a police report filed by the president of the association.
During a visit to several businesses, reporters from Shin Min Daily News discovered that two men and a woman had visited on Tuesday, followed by a man and a woman on Wednesday.
A pharmacy employee recounted that the pair arrived at 11pm (yes, you read it right: 11pm) , donning badges from the fire safety equipment company. They insisted on inspecting the store’s fire extinguishers and medical kits, claiming that the existing equipment did not meet the necessary standards and needed to be replaced to avoid hefty fines from the authorities.
After consulting her boss, they agreed to purchase the new fire extinguishers and first-aid kits.
The salespeople promised to provide a receipt and deliver the goods the next day, with payment to be made upon delivery.
Fortunately, after seeing messages in the merchants’ association chat group the following day, the employee realized something was wrong. She notified her boss and subsequently contacted the relevant authorities to confirm the legitimacy of the salespeople’s claims.
According to the receipt, a four-kilogram fire extinguisher was priced at $150, and a medical kit was sold for over $200.
A bubble tea shop owner shared a similar experience, where a female salesperson insisted on inspecting the fire extinguisher in her shop. Despite the owner’s objections and the presence of a fire extinguisher in the neighbouring shop, the salesperson persisted, claiming it was a MOM requirement and threatened fines for non-compliance.
The SCDF has repeatedly clarified that they are not involved in any fire extinguisher sales and have not authorized any company to represent them in transactions.
Company Details Raise Red Flags
Further investigation raised red flags about the company’s details.
According to the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA), the address registered for the company differed from the business address displayed on their badges.
Shin Min Daily News reporters found the registered address to be an empty unit within a building, devoid of any company signage, save for a long table. Attempts to reach the company via the provided phone number were unsuccessful.
Moreover, the address on the badges corresponded to a construction site currently under development.
Three People Charged in July for Deceiving Individuals into Purchasing Fire Extinguishers
This is actually more common than you expect.
In July, three individuals were charged for deceiving people into buying fire extinguishers by disseminating false information. These employees of Fire Safety Prevention SG (FSP) conducted door-to-door sales between 2018 and 2020, misleading residents into believing that owning a fire extinguisher was a mandatory requirement for all HDB households.
The victims were deceived with various false claims, including a supposed collaboration with a community center for the sales initiative, endorsements from Members of Parliament and the police, and warnings of summonses from the SCDF for households without the device.
Each of the five victims purchased one fire extinguisher, resulting in a total loss of $835.
In a related case, Kelvin Tan Yaosheng, 42, the director of FSP at the time of the alleged offenses, was charged with obstructing the course of justice. He allegedly instructed employees, including the aforementioned trio, to provide identical statements to the police and the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore on two occasions in 2020.
Background checks on Kelvin Tan revealed his involvement with several companies, including Fire Safety & Prevention (SG), Home Safety Services, SG Fire Prevention, and Singapore Fire Prevention. Currently, he serves as a director and shareholder at Blossom Global.
Moral of the story?
When in doubt, always call the authorities.
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