The Customs and Excise Department (C&ED) has recently detected some websites and posts on social networking platforms alleging that a huge amount of seized commodities being stored in the department's warehouse is available for sale at low prices or for website auction. The department's emblem and photos of its press conferences are also used for soliciting purposes in some cases.
A spokesman for the C&ED today (January 3) pointed out that the messages and promotional material spread on the websites and social networking platforms may be linked to copyright infringement and unscrupulous sales practices, causing possible violations of the Copyright Ordinance or the Trade Descriptions Ordinance (TDO). The C&ED is following up on the cases.
"Upon completion of all legal proceedings, the C&ED will classify the forfeited items in accordance with the established guidelines. The items will then be passed to the relevant government department for co-ordination and following up if the items are suitable for public auction," the spokesman said.
Customs reminds consumers that they should stay vigilant in regard to online shopping and procure products at reputable shops. They should not purchase items with unknown sources at suspicious websites or social networking platforms to prevent any losses that may incur.
According to the Copyright Ordinance, anyone who without the licence of the copyright owner distributes an infringing copy of a work through any device or electronic platform to such an extent as to affect prejudicially the owner, or possesses any infringing items for business purposes, commits an offence. The maximum penalty is a fine of $50,000 per infringing copy and imprisonment for four years.
Customs will conduct follow-up investigation if the infringing activities involve local persons. If the relevant platform is located outside Hong Kong but involved in local infringing activities, the C&ED will refer cases to the law enforcement authorities outside Hong Kong for joint follow-up actions.
According to the TDO, "trade description", in relation to goods, refers to an indication, direct or indirect, and in whatever form and by whatever means (including verbal), with respect to goods or any part of the goods, including the method of manufacture, production and processing, or the previous ownership or use. Traders should not give any false or misleading product information to consumers. Making a false or misleading statement about goods to a material degree may constitute an offence of false trade description. Any person who contravenes the relevant provision of the TDO is liable on conviction to a maximum fine of $500,000 and imprisonment for five years.
The spokesman reiterated that the C&ED will combat any infringing and unscrupulous sales practices through various channels.
Customs also appeals to members of the public to make a report to the Customs 24-hour hotline 2545 6182 if they have information on any suspected infringing activities or unscrupulous sales practices.
Ends/Wednesday, January 3, 2018