Hong Kong Customs combats counterfeit goods and unfair trade practices as well as rolls out more convenient crime reporting means (with photos)

22 Apr 2018

Hong Kong Customs conducted a territory-wide operation codenamed "Snow Leopard" yesterday (April 21) to combat the sale of suspected counterfeit smartphones and accessories as well as suspected engagement of unfair trade practices in selling smartphones. During the operation, 14 locations including 12 shops and two storage places were raided and a total of 100 smartphones with suspected false trademarks or with suspected false trade descriptions applied and about 3 400 pieces of suspected counterfeit smartphone accessories were seized with a total estimated market value of about $1.5 million. 18 men and a woman, aged between 21 and 48, were also arrested.

Customs earlier received information alleging that some phone repairing shops sold suspected counterfeit smartphone accessories, and some shops were suspected to have engaged in unfair trade practices by selling old smartphones as brand new products, or selling parallel-imported smartphones as authorised products.

After an in-depth investigation with the assistance of trademark owners, Customs took enforcement action yesterday and raided 12 shops. A total of 36 smartphones with suspected false trade descriptions applied or with suspected false trademarks and about 3 000 pieces of suspected counterfeit smartphone accessories were seized. A total of 17 shop owners and salespersons were arrested.

During the operation, Customs also cracked down on a syndicate in connection with export, supply and distribution of suspected counterfeit smartphones and accessories. A total of 64 suspected counterfeit smartphones and 330 pieces of suspected counterfeit smartphone accessories were seized at the storage places in Sham Shui Po and Tsing Yi. A 32-year-old male head and a 34-year-old female member of the syndicate were arrested.

Investigation is ongoing and more people may be arrested.

The Head of Intellectual Property Investigation Bureau, Ms Catherine Yip, said at a press conference today (April 22) that the successful detection of the case was attributed to the reporting by members of the public and the full assistance from trademark owners. Customs will continue with stringent enforcement and spare no effort in combating activities in connection with the sale of counterfeit goods and unfair trade practices.

She said that Customs will step up inspection and enforcement with the approach of the Labour Day Golden Week in order to suppress activities in connection with the sale of counterfeit goods and unfair trade practices.

Customs appeals to consumers to purchase products at reputable shops and to have a clear knowledge of product packaging and terms of warranty services as well as to inspect the goods in detail before making any purchases. Consumers should check with the trademark owners, manufacturers or their authorised agents if the authenticity of a product is in doubt. Invoices and receipts should also be kept.

Customs also reminds traders to comply with the requirements of the Trade Description Ordinance (TDO). False claims of goods may constitute an offence under the TDO. Traders should also be cautious and prudent in merchandising since the sale of counterfeit goods is a serious crime and liable to criminal sanctions.

Under the TDO, any person who applies a false trade description to any goods or supplies goods with a false trade description in the course of trade or business, or sells or possesses for sale any goods with a forged trademark, commits an offence. The maximum penalty upon conviction is a fine of $500,000 and imprisonment for five years.

In order to further facilitate members of the public to report crime information, Customs will put in place a dedicated crime-reporting email account (crimereport@customs.gov.hk) and provide a more comprehensive and convenient reporting means tomorrow (April 23).

Speaking at the same press conference, the Head of Intelligence Bureau, Ms Kitty Poon, told that the number of reports Customs received from members of the public has risen progressively for 21 per cent, from 31 994 in 2015 to 38 819 in 2017. Of all the reports received, the proportion received through email has increased from 30 per cent in 2015 to almost 40 per cent in 2017.

"The newly introduced email account is manned by dedicated Customs officers and prompt follow-up actions will be taken upon the receipt of information via the channel, providing members of the public a more convenient reporting means," she said.

She added that in order to make it more convenient for informants to make reports through electronic means, an edit function will also be added simultaneously to the Crime Report (CED 358) to facilitate informants to input information directly into the form.

Members of the public can make a report if they find suspected activities involving smuggling, drug trafficking, selling or buying of illicit cigarettes, sale of infringing goods and violations of the TDO, etc. to Customs by the following channels:

All information received by Customs will be kept in confidence.

Ends/Sunday, April 22, 2018

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