SINGAPORE: A firm was fined S$750 on Thursday (Aug 15) over the display of non-compliant personal mobility devices (PMDs) in its Paya Lebar premises.
This is the first prosecution of a retailer under the Active Mobility Act (AMA), and comes after the Jul 1, 2019 deadline that the Land Transport Authority (LTA) had given for PMDs to be UL2272-certified.
Manager Chew Tat Weng, who represented his company Ning Pte Ltd, pleaded guilty to one charge of displaying three non-compliant PMDs at its premises in Orion@Paya Lebar.
LTA prosecution officer Ng Jun Kai told the court that the company had printed brochures and posted online video advertisements to market the sale of such devices, which were located at their showroom service centre in 160 Paya Lebar Road.
The company is registered under the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority as a retailer of sports apparel and equipment, including bicycles, boats and healthcare equipment.
At about 2pm on Jul 9 this year, an LTA enforcement officer saw five PMDs displayed prominently at the outlet during an operation.
Three of those were not registered. Further checks also revealed that they were not UL2272-certified devices and therefore not compliant under the Active Mobility Regulations 2018.
INITIALLY WANTED TO CLAIM TRIAL
Mr Chew, who was not accompanied by any defence lawyer, initially told the packed court that he wanted to claim trial.
To this, District Judge Lorraine Ho asked him: "What is your defence? This is very clear. If a PMD is non-compliant, it's non-compliant."
Mr Chew said his company had several businesses and its main business was in wellness, selling beauty products. They had stopped selling e-scooters from mid-June and the devices seen in the premises were leftover inventory, he said.
He said that he was not present the day the LTA officer visited, and the case took him by surprise.
"Out of a sudden, I just received a notice to attend this court," he said. He claimed that the devices were "old models wrapped up to be disposed of" and were kept in an unlit meeting room.
In response to his claims, the judge said he displayed his beauty products along with the devices, and that all the devices had the company's name on it. There were also advertisements on the company's website, she said.
Mr Chew said it was an "old website" that the company had forgotten to take down.
"I do not intend to sell or anything, there're only five scooters, they didn't take two because they know it belongs to anybody in the office," he said. "To me, it's a surprise, they just walk in."
"Let me be blunt," replied the judge. "Do you have an official retail space anywhere?"
"We used to sell online, Qoo10, Lazada," answered Mr Chew.
However, when asked where people would go to see the actual products, he again repeated that the company had forgotten to take down the website.
After Mr Chew was given time to consider the guilty plea and took it, the prosecutor told the court that he was asking for an S$800 fine.
LTA HAD ENGAGED THE COMPANY: PROSECUTOR
This was because the business had not one but three non-compliant devices, and that LTA had made "extensive public service announcements" on the need for the new certification before Jul 1, 2019.
Also, LTA had engaged Ning in both September and October 2018 to tell them that PMDs without the certification could not be displayed or sold after the deadline.
"Therefore, at least seven months of grace period were catered for businesses to have their current fleet of personal mobility devices be rectified accordingly," said the LTA prosecutor. "However, Ning Pte Ltd had blatantly continued displaying non-compliant PMDs."
The prosecutor also referred to a ministerial statement on Aug 5 by Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min, who said that there were 49 PMD-related fires in the first half of 2019, compared with only 52 fires for the whole of last year.
"The cases may have been caused by an electrical anomaly to the electrical
circuitry or batteries, which could result from various factors such as overcharging of rechargeable batteries or use of unsuitable charger or battery, which is the risk that the implementation of UL2272 wishes to mitigate," said the prosecutor.
By displaying the non-compliant devices, Ning posed a fire safety hazard on its own premises and also ran the risk of "destroying homes or lives when such devices are sold to and used by unsuspecting customers".
He said the deterrent fine would inform "all errant and potential errant retailers in the industry that LTA possess zero tolerance in dealing with such selfish acts of businesses in profiting through compromising the safety of riders and fellow road users".
In his mitigation, Mr Chew repeated that the firm had stopped selling and promoting the devices, and that he had to go to court, which he said was "very uncalled for".
SHOW MORE REMORSE: JUDGE
"I think you should show a bit more remorse," the judge replied.
Mr Chew said he would like to appeal for leniency in order to move on, and said the company has never committed any offence thus far and had a clean record.
Judge Ho said there were real and potential dangers in selling or renting out non-compliant PMDs, as unknowing customers may buy them from irresponsible retailers.
However, she took note that the company was caught just days after the deadline on Jul 1, and that Mr Chew had claimed the firm was busy with its business.
"Retailers are now forewarned and this serves as a cautionary note," said the judge. "Retailers ... should clear all non-compliant devices from their premises. They should not think they will not be in trouble with the law if they are merely keeping old stock ... Do not expect the courts to be lenient with them."
The maximum punishment the company could have been given was a three-month jail, S$1,000 fine, or both.