The Trade Descriptions (Unfair Trade Practices) (Amendment) Ordinance 2012 was passed by the Legislative Council on 17 July 2012 and has come into effect on 19 July 2013. It extends the coverage of the Trade Descriptions Ordinance, Cap 362 (TDO) so as to prohibit specified unfair trade practices deployed by traders against consumers, including false trade descriptions of services, misleading omissions, aggressive commercial practices, bait advertising, bait-and-switch and wrongly accepting payment. It also introduces a civil compliance-based mechanism to encourage compliance by traders and to stop identified non-compliant practices, under which the law enforcement agencies may, as an alternative to criminal prosecution, accept an undertaking from a trader whom the enforcement agencies believe has engaged in a prohibited unfair trade practice to stop that practice.
Pursuant to the new sections 16BA and 16H of the amended TDO, the Commissioner of Customs and Excise (CCE) and the Communications Authority (CA), being the Enforcement Agencies, jointly drafted a set of Enforcement Guidelines which states the manner in which they will exercise their enforcement powers and provide guidance on the operation of the new legislative provisions. Enforcement Agencies lunched a public consultation on the draft Enforcement Guidelines from 7 December 2012 to 17 March 2013 to invite views from the public.
In response to the public consultation, a total of 27 submissions from various parties were received. In light of the views and comments gathered from the consultation, the Enforcement Agencies have revised the draft Enforcement Guidelines, and published the finalized Enforcement Guidelines (Opens a new window) and Public Consultation Report (Opens a new window) on 15 July 2013. Written submissions and summary of response are attached at Annex I and Annex II (Opens a new window) respectively.
The Customs and Excise Department is the principal agency to enforce the TDO, while the CA has concurrent jurisdiction in relation to the commercial practices of licensees under the Telecommunications Ordinance (Chapter 106) and the Broadcasting Ordinance (Chapter 562) that are directly connected with the provision of a broadcasting service or telecommunications service. To enforce the TDO effectively and ensure that every case is taken up by the appropriate Enforcement Agency, the CCE and CA have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (Opens a new window) for the purpose of coordinating the performance of their functions.
To deepen public understanding on the amended TDO, a publicity programme has been launched since March 2013 and includes the following production: