Shops must give tourists refunds up to 6 months

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 April, 2007, 12:00am

Travel Industry Council moves to protect city's reputation in light of cheaters

Retailers wishing to sell to tour groups will have to offer refunds up to six months from the date of purchase under tough measures formulated by the Travel Industry Council to crack down on tourist shopping scams.

Also, retailers will not be allowed to change their company names within a year of receiving a complaint, and the council's demerit system against shops will be made more stringent.

The measures will not be ready in time for the Labour Day 'golden week' national holiday next month, the council's executive director, Joseph Tung Yao-chung, said yesterday after a four-hour board meeting.

'We estimate that between 70 per cent and 80 per cent of tourist complaints against shops will be taken care of by stretching the refund period from 14 days to 180 days,' he said.

Shops wishing to register for tour group business will have to sign an agreement to honour the request for a refund unconditionally, even if the packaging on the purchased item has been removed.

The council will ratify the new agreement at next month's board meeting.

Mr Tung said shops should come under the new agreement by June 1. Travel companies will not be allowed to bring tour groups to shops that have not signed.

The council's increasingly tough stance against shops comes amid growing concerns that constant negative publicity in Hong Kong and on the mainland over the past two weeks about tourist scams will cause lasting damage to the local travel and retail trade. The council is also eager to dispel criticism that it lacks teeth in dealing with offenders.

The Tourism Board said the number of mainland visitors, including tour groups, dropped between 8 and 9 per cent year on year in the first 10 days of this month. In the past two weeks, the drop is about 4 per cent.

The board's new chairman, James Tien Pei-chun, will travel to Beijing on Tuesday to discuss the issue with tourism officials.

Early this month, mainland broadcaster CCTV reported that members of a mainland tour group bought a HK$9,800 diamond pendant from Expo Global in Hung Hom and a HK$16,000 Seculus watch from Majestic Watch & Jewellery Company in To Kwa Wan. Tests on the mainland found the authenticity of both items to be suspect.

The demerit system will also be tightened, although details have not been worked out. Currently when a shop accumulates 30 demerits, the council can remove it from the list of stores that have been approved for tour groups.

Proposals include stiffer penalties for repeat offences, Mr Tung said.

Naming and shaming shops on the council's website will also be automatic once 10 complaints have been accumulated by the council, the Tourism Commission, the Tourism Board or the Consumer Council over three months.