Hong Kong Customs investigates suspected unfair trade practices in sale of beauty services

2 Apr 2016

The Customs and Excise Department (C&ED) earlier received complaints from members of the public against staff members of two beauty parlours suspected of exerting undue influence and making false claims in the sale of beauty services to customers. The incidents were suspected to have constituted offences of engaging in aggressive commercial practice and applying false trade descriptions under the Trade Descriptions Ordinance (TDO).

The C&ED took enforcement action in early March and arrested eight women and a man aged between 25 and 36. The case is still under investigation and the arrested persons have been put on bail.

According to preliminary investigation, salespersons of a beauty parlour were suspected of using customers' credit cards to make payments for beauty services valued at over $190,000 without their prior approval. In another case, beauticians made false descriptions on the risk involved in beauty services.

A trader commits an offence if he or she uses harassment, coercion or undue influence to impair a consumer's freedom of choice or conduct in relation to a product which causes or is likely to cause the consumer to make a transactional decision, or if he or she applies false trade descriptions to a service supplied to a consumer. The maximum penalty upon conviction is a fine of $500,000 and imprisonment for five years. The management staff will also be liable if the offence is committed with their consent or connivance or is attributed to their neglect.

The Group Head (Unfair Trade Practice Investigation), Mr Kwan Kin-keung, today (April 2) reminded beauty service traders and beauticians to abide by the law. Consumers should procure services at reputable shops and be aware of the effectiveness and potential risks of beauty services before procurement. If necessary, consumers should seek professional advice. Moreover, a consumer should not provide his or her identity card or credit card to the salesperson before procurement. When signing a bill or sales contract, the consumer should pay extra attention to the terms of purchased items as well as the payment amount involved.

Members of the public may report suspected cases of violation of the TDO to Customs by calling the 24-hour hotline 2545 6182.

Ends/Saturday, April 2, 2016

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