Editorial on prices does not give a balanced picture
Your editorial ('No surprise who benefits', May 27, Sunday Morning Post) unfairly concludes that 'there has been little or no perceptible drop in the price of [beer or] wine'. Indeed, early this month, the International Wine & Spirits Record, an independent UK-based wine and spirits market research firm, found that retail prices of about 90 different brands of wine had fallen by an average of 15 per cent in the past year. The two key reasons behind this are the halving of wine duties in the most recent budget, and the industry's ongoing commitment to pass on tax savings to local consumers. To date, we believe this is the most comprehensive pricing survey.
In a similar vein, your article suggests that free-market economics will allow wine companies to continue charging prices that are conducive to their own businesses, without reflecting the tax decrease. This view neglects the impact of the forces of competitive markets and may be disrespectful to local consumers. Consumers are most likely savvy enough to only purchase alcohol at outlets that have lowered their prices. In the longer term, those outlets that have not cut their prices will struggle to remain competitive.
Despite issues such as duty-paid stock, the coalition and trade was fast to respond to the tax change, publishing new price lists as early as March.
Boris de Vroomen, The Hong Kong Wine & Spirits Industry Coalition
Comments on wine are hard to swallow
I read with disgust your comments in your editorial ('No surprise who benefits', May 27), which was full of generalisations without any supporting facts.
It would make your argument that the 'tax savings ... have been pocketed by those so eager for the reduction' more palatable if you had some solid facts regarding the prices charged by wine importers to both the trade and consumers before and after the duty was reduced.
If you had truly wanted to present a case of greed and deception - as was insinuated by your editorial - you could have done a simple survey by asking for a current trade and retail price list from importers as soon as the duty announcement was made by Financial Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen back in March, and then another set of prices after importers had supposedly passed on the savings. You may then have found your scepticism unjustified.
To condemn wine importers, distributors and retailers with beer merchants and the hotels and restaurants industry with the same rhetoric is misleading.
Most commercial wine importers who have reduced their prices would want to see a flow-on reduction in prices to the end consumer as most would hope for greater sales volume at lower margins to offset the high cost of operating a wine business, what with high inventory holding costs and ever-higher rents.
This is particularly true of most everyday drinking premium wines, for which prices from wineries are fairly stable whereas prices from overseas brokers and producers of fine wines and collectibles are rising by the day (one wonders if the rush of private importers and collectors are partly the cause). This problem is magnified by the decreasing value of the Hong Kong dollar.
On the other hand, one wonders if the greed of landlords and the threat of more future rent increases may be part of the reason why restaurateurs and suchlike are making hay while the sun is shining.
In the meantime, you may want to take time out on this, grab a glass of wine, stick it up your nose and savour the gift brought on by Mr Tang.
Peter Chu, Cellarmaster Wines
HK residents treated like children
It is thanks to the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department, the MTR and Leisure and Cultural Services Department that Hong Kong continues to live in a nanny state. Why do they think Hong Kong people are less capable and skilled than citizens of other societies? Stairs are for walking. Escalators are no different, and should not be treated with fear. The MTR's painful, repetitive reminder of the dangers of escalators are in contrast to the rest of the world, where escalator etiquette is well understood, and walking on them is neither shunned upon, nor dangerous. Their announcements cause noise pollution, and degrade our intelligence to the level of that of young children.
The LCSD's noisy reminders about how to handle water and the ocean at the beach are also an insult. These announcements do not occur at any other beaches in the world, yet none of them are any less safe. We have enough noise pollution in this city as it is. When will the government use civil logic (meaning logic that for once, is good for its citizens) to improve our living environment in this city? Continued reminders of our 'nanny state' qualities do nothing to improve our image as a third-world city.
M. Douglas, Mid-Levels
Time to change law on trademarks
I am responding to Gordon Jones' (Registrar of Companies) letter ('Trademark law has limitations', May 21). Mr Jones quite rightly points out the overlap of the companies and trademark regimes, and that in the long term, the solution to the use of famous trademarks as company names lies in amending the Companies Ordinance to give the registrar powers to deal with companies guilty in infringement cases.
With respect to Mr Jones, the government is simply not doing enough.
There is widespread infringing activity, and much of it is by mainland entities that sell infringing products facilitated by Hong Kong-registered companies bearing names of well-known brand names, which are set up by the individuals engaged in infringing activities on the mainland.
While brand owners are successfully obtaining Hong Kong court judgments requiring the infringing companies to change their names, such companies ignore the judgments. This is contempt of court. The Companies Registrar is also powerless under the Companies Ordinance to do anything about this.
However, the organisation I represent has proposed to the government a very simple amendment to Section 22 of the Companies Ordinance, which would empower the Companies Registrar to strike off a company if it refuses to change its name following a Hong Kong court order requiring it to do so.
The government has so far refused to make the amendment because it says it is reviewing the whole ordinance (a new law is promised by 2011). This is a poor excuse.
Steven Birt, president of Hong Kong Institute of Trade Mark Practitioners
Pythons part of HK's rich biodiversity
I must provide a brief comment and dose of reality regarding the article ('Sai Kung villagers horrified as giant python grapples with goat', May 27).
When will people realise that nature functions as a myriad of interconnected happenings and humans are only one part of the big scheme. You interfere with one part and you will later feel repercussions from another. To observe this phenomenon on a macro scale, just look at the over-exploitation of the Earth to provide human comfort and convenience.
The Burmese python is part of Hong Kong's rich biodiversity and people should be proud to have such natural heritage on their doorstep. The country parks are one of Hong Kong's most undervalued and overlooked treasures.
Why were the villagers horrified? This is not horror, but nature. The country parks and adjacent areas are the python's home and it has to eat sometimes.
Gary Ades, Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden