Wellness Village Spa & Fitness is a limited liability partnership...so what?!

...so does that mean the liability that the partners of Wellness Village Spa & Fitness namely Ms. Lia Meyrina & Mr. Christopher Tan Khee Howe is limited? How limited is limited, I am sure many are groaning to find out the extent.

See, my previous post "Wellness Village Spa & Fitness outlets disappear? And to think that SIA Boarding Pass Privileges showcase the spa..." has so far sparked enough interests from readers whom had bothered to post their comments. So I feel a sense of duty to help as much as possible.

Okay, too bad I'm not a lawyer. Can't help the victims by providing pro bono legal services against Wellness Village Spa & Fitness. (Although I'm very sure the first lawyer who is willing to represent the unhappy customers of Wellness Village Spa & Fitness and take up the job free of charge will have won a tremendous amount of publicity!)

What I can offer is to provide more insight of what a limited liability partnership (LLP) is about.

According to EnterpriseOne:
LLP was introduced on 11 April 2005. It combines the limited liability features of companies with the operational flexibility of partnerships. All LLPs must be registered with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA).

And one of the advantages mentioned to be:
The personal assets of the partners are protected. In addition, owners are not personally accountable for the wrongful acts of other owners. However, partners can be personally accountable for debts and losses resulting from their own careless actions.

Yes, you read it right. The personal assets of the partners are protected.

The Accounting & Corporate Regulatory Authority Singapore (ACRA) website further stresses this point in different wordings:
The partners of the LLP will not be held personally liable for any business debts incurred by the LLP. However a partner may be held personally liable for claims from losses resulting from his own wrongful act or omission. But a partner shall not be personally liable for such wrongful acts or omissions of any other partner of the LLP.

So forget about protesting how rich Ms. Lia Meyrina & Mr. Christopher Tan Khee Howe are & how they should be able to reimburse the money of the unhappy customers of their vanishing Wellness Village Spa & Fitness.

Legally speaking, these two partners are not obliged to use their personal wealth to appease the frustrated clients. (Let's put aside Moral, shall we?)

Well then, what can be done about it?

Inflict as much damage as possible to these two partners. For example: file a complaint to CASE (build up the pressure--as per now, there are already 138 complaints). Also equally important is to file a claim against the business at the Small Claims Tribunal. And for those like elle (a reader who first commented in my other post), why not file a police report?

Disgruntled customers are many. You guys for certain can win this case. Don't give up and never write off your loss. Continue the fight & I promise, whoever responsible in this not-so-unique case of disappearing spa outlets shall not be able to enjoy their life in peace regardless of their personal riches.

Who foots the bill for credit card payments – the bank or cardholders – when a service provider makes a sudden disappearance?

The question is being asked after the shutdown of spa operator Wellness Village, which was reported in TODAY on Tuesday.

One customer was told by a former employee that the spa was still selling packages, some as costly as $10,000, up to the weekend before it closed down.

The four-year-old spa is also believed to have up to 7,000 customers and they are wondering about their credit card liability.

"I'm still paying off my instalment plan I paid with my credit card," said a customer who only wanted to be identified as Ms Tan. "Now that this has happened, will the bank take some liability?"

When contacted, the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) said the credit-issuing bank has already paid for the customers' purchases and the amount needs to be settled.

ABS said customers should take their grievances to the spa owner. Credit card holders can choose to pay in full or by instalments at some establishments.

"Regardless, the bank has a contractual obligation to pay the merchant in full once the charge slip is signed," UOB regional and Singapore head for cards and payment products Gan Ai Im also told MediaCorp.

"The card member, on the other hand, is obliged to make full settlement of all charges incurred on the card to the bank."

Wellness Village customers can call their card-issuing banks, however, to investigate or dispute the charges.

Said Citi Singapore vice-president of corporate affairs Caren Lee: "We understand the concerns of the customers and empathise with them in this situation."

"To support the investigation, the customer will need to provide supporting documents, including the purchase agreement with the merchant."

Consumers Association of Singapore executive director Seah Seng Choon said it has received 138 complaints from former customers since the spa's closure made headlines.

He said the "first thing the consumer needs to do is to file a claim against the business at the Small Claims Tribunal" to obtain an order demanding the business pays whatever amount is awarded.

This applies to firms that are still "live", such as Wellness Village, as indicated by checks with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority.

If the amount is not settled, the consumer can make a writ of seizure or other legal action, said Mr Seah. But that could cost more than the amount some customers would forfeit.

Lawyer Doris Chia from David Lim & Partners pointed to another alternative: For customers to "band together" and wind up the company. An official receiver will then look into the accounts and affairs of the company to see if money can be clawed back.

Consumers can also file a police complaint. "If directors of the company continued to trade or accept more payments for packages even though they know there was no chance the company will be able to honour the packages, this ... may render the directors personally liable," said Ms Chia.

From Channel NewsAsia, "Wellness Village spa closure: Who'll foot those credit card bills now?".

Update: It's reported that about 240 angry customers of Wellness Vilage Spa & Fitness had consulted CASE about what they needed to do.

Almost 250 regular customers of a popular spa are up in arms over its abrupt closure this week.

Some of them had contacted Wellness Village's branches at the Pan Pacific Hotel and Pagoda Street as recently as last Sunday to make appointments.

A day later, the phone lines were disconnected, and still not a word had come from the management about the closure.

About 240 customers, who have paid between a few hundred dollars and $10,000 upfront for massage and facial packages, have since gone to the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) to seek advice and redress.

It is understood that some have lodged police reports and filed claims with the Small Claims Tribunal.

The boyfriend of one customer, who has been contacting other affected individuals, said he has gathered more than 40 names from online forums. He reckons the money they have put in with the spa exceeds $100,000.

The 27-year-old engineer, who wanted to be known only as Mr Fung, said his 24-year-old girlfriend was still using a $900 package for intense pulsed light treatments and had just sunk $500 more for a fresh package in September. 'We are, needless to say, very angry,' he said.

Customers also told The Straits Times they had heard that the spa's employees were leaving the company in recent months over salaries owed.

When contacted, the Manpower Ministry said it had received word about the late payment of salaries by Wellness Village and was investigating the company for possible Employment Act breaches.

When The Straits Times dropped in on the Pan Pacific outlet yesterday, the blinds were down and its entrance, locked.

But at the Pagoda Street outlet, the door was open. Inside, the place was bare, save for some dirty dishes and unwanted footwear.

Before this development, Wellness Village had been in business for about four years at both premises; at one point, it had a third outlet in Marina Square, which closed down early this year.

Pan Pacific spokesman Cheryl Ng said the hotel has been fielding calls and e-mail from the spa's customers but has been unable to comment because the spa was an independent business.

The hotel was also in the dark about the spa's pullout.

Ms Ng said: 'We are trying our best to contact the spa operator, but to no avail, and are not privy to why it has closed.'

She described the hotel's business relationship with the spa as 'professional', and was unable to comment on whether it had rental arrears.

Attempts by The Straits Times yesterday to contact the director of the spa, Ms Lia Meyrina, a Singapore permanent resident, were unsuccessful.

She was not in at her Club Street condominium home yesterday afternoon, but her maid said her employer was still in Singapore.

From Asiaone, "Spa's sudden closure: 240 turn to Case".


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