Customs combats unscrupulous trade practices under newly amended Trade Descriptions Ordinance (with photos)

15 Aug 2013

The Customs and Excise Department launched a series of operations this month to crack down on unfair trade practices employed by some dried seafood and ginseng stalls under the newly amended Trade Descriptions Ordinance (TDO).

In the operations carried out by Customs officers, the unit prices of dried abalone and ginseng displayed for sale in three stalls were found to be calculated by weight and in taels. The stall operators, upon enquiries, repeatedly avoided providing the prices of the goods to consumers, with the intention of omitting and hiding this material information to mislead consumers into believing that the unit prices of the dried abalone or ginseng were calculated in catties instead of taels. The transaction values were 10 times more than what a consumer would have expected while making a transactional decision. The stalls were also found displaying price indications for the goods on placards in a manner that was unclear or hidden. It is believed that the trade malpractice of the stalls has contravened Section 13E of the TDO, which prohibits misleading omission of material information in a trade in relation to a consumer.

In the operations, 40.9 catties of dried abalone and 18.7 catties of ginseng with a total value of $0.23 million were seized. Seven women aged between 42 and 59 were arrested. The cases are still under investigation.

The amended TDO came into effect on July 19, 2013. It aims to prohibit unscrupulous trade practices including misleading omission. A trader may commit a misleading omission offence if it adopts a commercial practice which omits or hides material information; or provides material information in a manner that is unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely; or fails to identify its commercial intent and, as a result, it causes or is likely to cause an average consumer to make a transactional decision that he would not have made otherwise. Offenders are liable to a maximum penalty of a $500,000 fine and five years' imprisonment upon conviction.

Customs reminds traders to abide by the law and consumers to purchase dried seafood from reputable shops. Consumers should also carefully observe the price per unit of quantity, enquire more about the information, including the price, of the goods before any purchase, and keep the receipts for future reference.

Members of the public are urged to report any suspected violations of the TDO to the Customs 24-hour hotline 2545 6182.

Ends/Thursday, August 15 2013

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