Hong Kong Customs continued to vigorously combat unfair trade practices in different industries in the first half of this year and found that there were changes in unfair trade practices during the COVID-19 epidemic.
In the first five months of this year, Customs received a total of 2 449 reports of suspected violation of the Trade Descriptions Ordinance (TDO), slightly up 4 per cent from the figure for the same period of last year. Among the 2 449 reports, 1 629 and 820 of them were related to goods and service industries respectively.
Under the epidemic, obvious changes were observed in unfair trade practices adopted by ginseng and dried seafood shops and pharmacies among the reports involving goods, including that target victims of the relevant reports have changed from tourists to local residents and the number of reports involving common protective items has increased.
Customs has conducted a territory-wide special operation codenamed "Guardian" since January 27, 2020, to conduct spot checks and enforcement operations on common protective items. Up to May 31, 2022, more than 7 700 officers have been mobilised to conduct more than 44 400 inspections at retail spots. Investigations into 40 cases under the TDO and the Consumer Goods Safety Ordinance were launched, with 91 arrests and seizures of 38.56 million surgical masks and other virus-protective products worth $144 million.
Reports related to service industries primarily involved beauty, fitness, renovation, tourism and education industries. Among them, the unfair trade practices of selling tourism and education services have changed significantly.
Regarding the unfair trade practices of tourism services, they have changed from selling flight services and travel agency services to selling local hotel services. Under the pandemic, reports related to the sale of local hotel services have increased substantially, from 15 cases in 2019 to 58 cases in 2021. Seventeen cases were recorded in the first five months of this year.
As for the education services, reports involving local training classes or interest classes have also increased since the beginning of the epidemic. They were mainly related to false claims on qualification recognition made by the relevant institutions. Since last year, Customs has stepped up efforts to combat unfair trade practices related to qualification recognition in the education industry and has successfully detected eight cases that involved courses of canoeing, barista training and children's training.
Customs, as the principal agency to enforce the TDO, will continue to improve law enforcement effectiveness through report analysis, formulation of effective enforcement strategies and flexible allocation of resources.
In addition to vigorous enforcement actions, Customs will also enforce the TDO through compliance promotion and educational promotion to form a three-pronged approach to protect the rights of consumers.
Ends/Friday, July 8, 2022