Monday, January 30, 2012

MyeCitizen alert that came too late

I have just written to REACH, the government's feedback unit, and MyeCitizen, the portal that offers sms/email alerts and reminder services from government offices and agencies.

This was after I had reluctantly paid a penalty of $40 for "late" renewal of my road tax which expired last Saturday (Jan 28).

I was alerted to the expiry by sms from MyeCitizen the following day (Jan 29). It asked me to renew my road tax immediately if I had not done so.

I do not normally leave such things till the last minute, but this time I had forgotten completely about it because of a family emergency last week.

Immediately after the sms alert, I went online to onemotoring to do the renewal.

To my surprise, I discovered that I had to pay a penalty of $40. I had no choice but to comply.

Although I appreciate very much the services of MyeCitizen, I wonder why the alert came only a day after the road tax had expired.

If I was going to be fined for "late" renewal, surely it would have been more helpful if the alert had been sent on the expiry day itself!!!

MyeCitizen must have gotten its information about the expiry from the Land Transport Authority. So why didn't LTA think about having the alert on the day when I still had time to do the renewal without being penalised???

Another reason for my unhappiness is the fact that I had to pay the penalty when I had not even driven my car out of the porch on Jan 29, the day when the new road tax period starts.

Does one have to pay a penalty when one purchases an airline ticket on the day that the flight takes off?

Stay tuned as I wait for Reach and MyeCitizen to reply.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

FairPrice Finest outlet at Scotts Square raises several questions

I received an eight-page brochure yesterday from NTUC FairPrice to announce the opening of its latest FairPricefinest outlet in the heart of the city -- at the newly-opened Scotts Square.

While I am happy that there is yet another outlet nearby for us to shop, it is unlikely that we will be going there often because of the parking charges.

I guess the outlet is to cater to those people who live in the expensive apartment blocks in the vicinity or tourists who stay in the five-star hotels around there.

Although I do not know the size of this outlet, FairPrice must be paying a hefty per square foot rent for the premises.

My curious mind is wondering whether the co-operative is charging the same prices for similar products that are available at its finest outlets elsewhere.

If it does, then it would either be making a lower profit margin or maybe even a loss for such products because of the higher costs. If it does not, then regulars would naturally avoid going there to shop.

Several other questions come to mind:

* Why is the co-op venturing into the upmarket area when it should really be concentrating on the more residential places where the ordinary Singaporeans live?

* Would prices at other finest outlets continue to be reasonably priced if the Scotts outlet does not measure up because of the higher operational costs?

* Is this an indication that the co-op is slowly veering away from its social mission to moderate the cost of living in Singapore?

NTUC Fairprice Co-operative Ltd was founded by the labour movement in 1973 and its first NTUC Welcome supermarket at Toa Payoh was opened by PM Lee Kuan Yew on 22 July 1973.

Ten years later, NTUC Welcome merged with the Singapore Employees Co-operative to form NTUC Fairprice Co-operative Ltd.

FairPrice has since grown to become the largest retailer. Its network of more than 230 outlets include FairPrice supermarkets, FairPrice Finest, FairPrice Xtra, FairPrice Xpress and Cheers convenience stores.

On its website, NTUC FairPrice says it has evolved to make "the dream of living well accessible to everyone by moderating the costs of the good life."

I hope the opening of the Scotts outlet is not an indication that it has forgotten about its social mission.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Why is DBS compromising our security without telling us first?

Despite the ATM thefts amounting to $1 million through skimming, what DBS and UOB said recently would give the jitters to anyone who has some money in these banks.

Following the thefts at its ATM machines in Bugis Street, DBS came out to say that it has no full security measures at all its ATMs.

Jitter technology is employed to shake the ATM card when it is inserted and removed to make it difficult for the thieves to instal a skimming devices. It was not used at the Bugis machines.

And the bank's explanation for this was: these measures will lead to a "meaningful increase in customer queue times".

DBS has also admitted that by not activating all the measures at many of its ATMs it could leave these machines vulnerable to thefts.

But what floored me was the remark by its spokesman that "even if the jitter function was on, it is highly unlikely that it could have circumvented the card skimming incident."

Then, almost in the next breath, he added: "It is fair to say that the more security measures you leave on, the better you are likely to be protected."

The obvious question anyone would ask DBS is this: Why are you compromising our security and why are you informing us of this only now --- when the money had disappeared from the ATMs?

Surely we, the customers, have the right to know what we are in for when we use its ATMs.

I mentioned UOB at the start because when DBS was hit, it said it had activated the full security measures at all its ATMs. But when The Straits Times reporter made a check on Monday, it was found that its machines at three places were not activated.

Later that day, it activated all its machines after being told by the newspaper.

In all this fiasco, the bank that stood out is OCBC. All its machines have the full security measures since 2007. Solid as a rock, as usual.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

$100 notes not a Lunar New Year issue

If you can get new $100 notes from your banks for the Lunar New Year this year, consider yourself lucky.

A spokesman for the Monetary Authority of Singapore's Currency Department told me this morning that the $100 is not a LNY issue. Only $2, $5, $10 and some $50 are.

So, if you were to ask your bank for $100 notes -- like I did -- you will be told that they have only recirculated notes. MAS says that it will only issue new $100 notes when there is a shortage of such notes.

I guess not many people put $100 notes in their ang pows. Anyway, two $50 will do the trick.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

DBS says it does not have $100 new notes for the Lunar New Year

It is happening again. Eleven months after I blogged (Friday, February 11, 2011 New currency notes for angpows: Ball is at the feet of our banks) about the shortage of new currency notes for the Lunar New Year, DBS Bank told me today that the authorities have not given them any new $100 notes.

They have notes in $2, $5, $10 and $50 denominations, but not the $100. It does seem a bit strange. I will ask the the Monetary Authority of Singapore's Currency Department again why this is so and whether the bank had made a request for the $100 notes.

Last year, I had asked MAS, after a prompting from a friend, why the Board of Commissioners of Currency could not have printed more new notes knowing that there was going to be a demand every year.

My friend said the giving of angpows "is a good family tradition that we would want to uphold and the government should play its part to make sure that there is sufficient supply of those notes every year."

MAS said then that it would only issue new notes when recirculated notes were insufficient to meet the demand for cash.

"This usually coincides with festive periods such as Chinese New Year. The amount of new notes to be issued in any given year, depends on the demand from banks and stock level of recirculated notes," it explained.

So, it is really up to our banks to ask for them. In other words, ask and it shall be given. How much new notes are put out by the authorities depends on the banks.

Question now is, whether DBS had asked MAS for new $100 notes this year and, if not, why not?