Customs Special Duties Team targets dispensaries suspected of selling look-alike products (with photos)

13 Jun 2014

With a view to protecting consumers' rights, the Special Duties Team (SDT) of the Customs and Excise Department conducted a series of operations in the past two days (June 11 and 12) to combat unscrupulous trade practices contravening the Trade Descriptions Ordinance. In the operation, Customs officers, disguised as customers, successfully cracked down on four dispensaries deploying suspected false trade descriptions in selling look-alike products as genuine medicinal products in the course of business. A total of 504 boxes of look-alike products, valued at about $18,720, were seized.

During the two-day operation, Customs officers conducted test-purchases of various well-known brands of medicinal products, such as skin lotions, gastrointestinal pills and peppermint fluids at dispensaries in Mong Kok, Tsim Sha Tsui and Causeway Bay. In the operation, Customs officers, disguised as customers, clearly expressed to the salespersons the brands and names of the products to be purchased. The salespersons attempted to pass off look-alike products to the Customs officers as the genuine goods while verbally claiming that the look-alike goods were those requested, and hence were suspected to have contravened the Trade Descriptions Ordinance. Enforcement action by the SDT officers resulted in seizure of 504 boxes of products, such as skin lotions, gastrointestinal pills and peppermint fluids, with a total value of about $18,720. These products were suspected to have been used by the dispensaries to imitate the genuine products. Four male salespersons and one male director, aged between 22 and 41, were arrested. The cases are still under investigation and the arrested persons have been temporarily released on police bail pending further investigation.

According to the Trade Descriptions Ordinance, trade descriptions can be applied by whatever means, including oral and written statements. It is a criminal offence for any person who in the course of trade or commercial practice applies false trade descriptions, supplies or offers to supply any goods to which a false trade description is applied, or is in the possession of goods with false trade description for the purpose of trade. Offenders are liable to a maximum penalty of a fine of $500,000 and five years' imprisonment upon conviction.

The Superintendent of the SDT, Mr Liu Ping-tong, today (June 13) reminded traders to abide by the law and advised consumers to visit reputable shops when making purchases of medicinal products. Consumers are reminded to have a clear knowledge of the product packaging and brands they intend to buy before making any purchases. Consumers should inspect the goods and, in case of doubt, check with the salespersons carefully on the authenticity of the goods. Invoices and receipts should be kept for future reference.

Complaints on suspected violations of the Trade Descriptions Ordinance can be made to the Customs 24-hour hotline 2545 6182.

Ends/Friday, June 13, 2014

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