Sorry, Huawei. The fallout from Friday’s marketing stunt gone sideways is apparently not quite over yet.
The president of Singapore’s consumer watchdog is now demanding that the phone manufacturer be reprimanded for the “misleading” ads used to promote a National Day offer that drew large crowds to its stores only to turn the majority away disappointed.
The company had slashed the price of its Huawei Y6 Pro smartphone from S$198 to S$54 (about US$145 to US$39) in celebration of Singapore’s upcoming 54th birthday, offering the special deal to customers aged 50 and above.
But Huawei did not disclose the very limited stocks it had for its promotion, leaving customers — mainly the elderly — frustrated that they could not get hold of the smartphones despite some having arrived as early as dawn.
In a Facebook message posted yesterday afternoon, the head of the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE), Lim Biow Chuan, said the company’s advertisement might have breached the Consumer Protection Fair Trading Act (CPFTA).
“Huawei should not have advertised to so many consumers about their sale of the smartphones at a huge discounted price when they only have limited stocks in their stores,” Lim wrote.
“Such (an) advertisement is misleading and has caused much inconvenience to many consumers. Public resources have also been wasted due to the police being called to manage the crowds.”
Lim, whose organization is tasked with protecting consumer interests from unfair and unethical trade practices, went on to express hope that a “public reprimand” be issued to Huawei by the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) — the statutory board that enforces the CPFTA.
Singapore will always remember this episode with “distaste and disappointment,” Lim said, adding that he hoped Huawei will take action to “win back” public support.
Some who had joined Friday’s long queues said on Facebook that there were only 20 to 30 phones available at each outlet for the promotion. Others questioned whether the promotion was actually a scam, as some stores claimed to have none of the smartphones even before opening.
The Huawei drama didn’t end there. One auntie apparently fainted after queuing for so long, while a 53-year-old woman was arrested at the Jem shopping mall in Jurong East for causing a commotion at a Huawei outlet there.
Police officers had to be deployed to several stores to help manage the crowds and calm down angry aunties and uncles.
The Huawei outlet in Tampines Mall was the first to be shut for safety and security reasons, before another nine stores followed suit, according to the company on Facebook.
“We are truly sorry to have disappointed those who have shown your support from early morning,” Huawei said.
Coconuts Singapore has contacted CCCS for comment and will update this story as more information comes available.