he Trade Descriptions (Unfair Trade Practices) (Amendment) Ordinance 2012 (the Ordinance), which aims to provide greater protection for consumers by extending its coverage from goods to services and specified unfair trade practices, will come into effect this Friday (July 19).
The Customs and Excise Department (C&ED) is the principal agency responsible for enforcing the Ordinance. Concurrent jurisdiction is conferred on the Communications Authority (CA) to enforce the fair trading sections in the Ordinance in relation to the commercial practices of licensees under the Telecommunications Ordinance and the Broadcasting Ordinance that are directly connected with the provision of telecommunications services or broadcasting services.
Speaking at a press conference today (July 15), the Commissioner of Customs and Excise, Mr Clement Cheung, said that the Ordinance prohibits specified unfair trade practices that might be deployed against consumers.
He said that the Enforcement Agencies jointly issued a set of draft Enforcement Guidelines for public consultation at the end of last year. The final Enforcement Guidelines have been refined with clearer provisions and examples after taking into account comments received during the consultation.
The Government is committed to protecting consumers' legitimate rights and establishing an effective regime where consumers and businesses can trade fairly with confidence.
Traders should comply with the fair trading sections of the Ordinance in the course of their business to build up goodwill and avoid any violations. As consumers, members of the public are encouraged to better understand the unfair trade practices and the protection they are entitled to under the law in order to shop with peace of mind.
Under the amended legislation, the following six types of unscrupulous trade practices will be prohibited:
On enforcement, the Enforcement Agencies set investigation priorities to deal with cases under the Ordinance by taking into account the identified risks, the complaints received and making the best use of enforcement resources
Generally speaking, a higher priority is accorded to a case involving conduct that has significant public interests or concerns, a repeated and intentional conduct engaged by a trader or a trading industry, or conduct that causes significant financial loss to the consumers.
In addition, a civil compliance-based mechanism is introduced to encourage compliance by traders and stop identified unfair trade practices expeditiously.
Under the mechanism, the Enforcement Agencies may, with the consent of the Secretary for Justice, accept a trader's undertaking as an alternative to prosecution. Where necessary, the Enforcement Agencies may also seek injunctions from a court of law to order a trader not to continue or repeat the contravening conduct.
Meanwhile, the Enforcement Agencies have launched various publicity activities to help both the traders and consumers understand the new statutory requirements and better prepare themselves for compliance with the law. Activities held include a series of seminars or workshops for the traders and distribution of pamphlets at shops. Other publicity items produced are TV and Radio APIs, posters and information on departmental homepages.
The Enforcement Agencies have also worked closely with the Consumer Council in launching publicity and education programmes to disseminate effectively relevant information to the public and the traders.
Members of the public may obtain more information from the Enforcement Guidelines which can be accessed from the Customs' website (www.customs.gov.hk/filemanager/common/pdf/pdf_forms/Enforcement_Guidelines_en.pdf) and the CA's website (www.coms-auth.hk/filemanager/en/content_800/20130715_enforce_guide_e.pdf).
Any person who wishes to make a report on violations of the Ordinance may call the Customs hotline 2545 6182.
For report on telecommunications and broadcasting services, the public can call the Office of the Communications Authority hotline at 2961 6333.
Ends/Monday, July 15 2013