New legislation to enhance consumer protection from March 2 (with photos)

23 Feb 2009

The Trade Descriptions Ordinance (Amendment) 2008 and its eight pieces of related subsidiary legislation will come into effect on March 2.

The Customs and Excise Department today (February 23) reminded retailers to observe the provisions of the new legislation, and alerted consumers of their rights.

Speaking at a press conference, the Head of Trade Descriptions and Transhipment Controls Bureau of the Customs and Excise Department (C&ED), Mr Marcus Lau, said the amendment to the ordinance aimed to prohibit dishonest sales practices employed by retailers to enhance protection of consumers, including visitors to Hong Kong.

The following four types of unscrupulous trade practices will be prohibited:

  1. Making false representations regarding after-sale services and warranties for goods;
  2. Giving misleading, unclear or incomplete information as to the price of the goods set by reference to a unit of quantity;
  3. Giving misleading price indication for electronic products (Purchasers are not informed prior to making the purchases that the prices at which the products are sold do not include any basic accessories, that are reasonably expected to be included in the price); and
  4. Making false or misleading representation regarding a retailer's connection with or endorsement by individuals or bodies of good standing and reputation.

The eight pieces of newly enacted or revised sub-legislation under the Amendment Ordinance give a statutory definition of diamond and natural fei cui. They also raise the standard of fineness of "Chuk Kam" from 990 to 999; and provide that "白金" or "鉑金" is the Chinese rendition for "platinum", and that "白色黃金" is the Chinese rendition for "white gold" to avoid confusion.

Retail shops selling products of gold, platinum, diamond and natural fei cui are required to issue to the buyers invoices or receipts containing the prescribed product information.

They are also required to display prominently at the point of supply a prescribed notice of their obligations under the law.

Retail shops selling five types of regulated electronic products - digital audio players (including MP3 players), digital camcorders, digital cameras, mobile phones and portable multimedia players (including MP4 players) have to issue to the buyers invoices or receipts containing the prescribed product information, including details of after-sale services.

Details of the new provisions are available on the Customs website

To promote the new legislation, the C&ED will launch a publicity campaign entitled "Sell with integrity. Buy with confidence" tomorrow (February 24). TV and radio Announcements in the Public Interest will be broadcast. While pamphlets will be distributed to local people, tourists and retail shops, posters will also be put up at boundary control points and popular shopping venues to let arriving visitors and local consumers know their consumer rights under the new legislation.

To assist the retail industries to comply with the amended law, the department had, since January, organised a series of seminars to enable their trade to become familiar with the new provisions.

Mr Lau stressed that the department would deploy sufficient manpower to enforce the new legislation. "Our officers will inspect retail shops, including those selling jewellery, electronic products and dried seafood, from time to time to ensure their compliance with the law," he said.

"We will also conduct surprise checks and make undercover purchases at suspicious retail shops to deter dishonest sales practices," Mr Lau added. Those found in breach of the law would be prosecuted.

To encourage reporting of dishonest retailing activities, the department will work closely with the Consumer Council and the Travel Industry Council. Complaints against possible violations of the Trade Descriptions (Amendment) Ordinance will be dealt with expeditiously. In this connection, the department will set up quick-response teams to follow up on complaints from short-haul visitors.

Any person who wishes to make a report on violations of the Trade Descriptions Ordinance may call the Customs hotline 2545 6182, or write to the Trade Controls Branch of the Customs and Excise Department at 14/F, Trade and Industry Department Tower, 700 Nathan Road, Mong Kok, Kowloon.

Under the Trade Descriptions Ordinance, retailers employing a deceptive trade practice in the course of business are subject to the maximum penalty of a fine of $500,000 and imprisonment for five years.

Ends/Monday, February 23, 2009

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