Police probing perfume subscription service I’vre after complaints of wrong charges, unfulfilled orders

SINGAPORE – The police are investigating online luxury scent subscription service I’vre after disgruntled customers filed reports claiming they were wrongly charged and never received their orders.

Self-professed perfume fanatic Srimala Balakrishnan had $494.50 charged to her debit card by the company in November even after she cancelled her subscription, she told The Straits Times.

The 41-year-old nurse had seen an advertisement for the company – whose name is derived from the French word for “drunk” – on social media in May and was enticed by its deals, she said.

She bought a premium subscription plan for $44.95 a month to receive three sample-sized bottles of perfume every month, picked out from I’vre’s inventory of designer fragrances. These came in I’vre-branded 8ml spray bottles called atomisers.

The company offered two other plans. The cheapest one, priced at $19.95, entitled customers to choose one bottle a month from its catalogue of more than 200 scents, while the $34.95 plan allowed customers to choose two bottles monthly.

Everything went swimmingly for the first two months, but from the third month, Ms Balakrishnan noticed that every time she ordered a more expensive scent – anything that retailed above $400 for a 50ml bottle – it would invariably be out of stock and she would be forced to settle for a cheaper one.

She also started to doubt the authenticity of the scents she received, after the well-known Victoria’s Secret (VS) Bombshell perfume she ordered smelled “very off”.

A check at a VS boutique confirmed her suspicions that she had not received VS’ Bombshell, she said.

Though she had hoped to support the young founders behind I’vre – Mr Christian Kwok, 22, and Ms Elaine Yuan, 23 – these red flags made her cancel her subscription in October, said Ms Balakrishnan.

The next month, she found out that $494.50 had been charged to her debit card by I’vre. This was 11 times her previous subscription fee.

An e-mail from the company to Ms Balakrishnan, seen by ST, blamed the charge on a system bug and claimed a refund was being processed.

But to date, she has not been refunded and the company has stopped replying to her, said Ms Balakrishnan, who filed a police report on Nov 28, seen by ST.

Accounts mirroring Ms Balakrishnan’s have surfaced online in recent weeks, with a flurry of complaints from customers of repeat charges to their bank accounts – also attributed by the company to a system bug – unfulfilled orders and refunds promised but not received.

On Dec 5, the company announced on its website and through an e-mail to its customers that it had been acquired and would close down, despite celebrating its first anniversary with a yacht party only two months before.

In a thread on the Reddit forum, the news stoked anxiety among customers still waiting for refunds, even as I’vre began promoting its clearance sale on its website, with luxury bottles worth hundreds going for $100 a pop.

Another aggrieved customer, Ms S., who did not want to disclose her name, said she bought two bottles of perfume in the clearance sale even though she was worried that she had not been refunded after being wrongly charged in November and December.

She has not received her orders from the sale, which cost $200, added the marketing executive, 27.

“I’m just in shock that I ignored so many red flags,” she said.

“But money is still money. I’m angry.”

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