Fruit fraud complaints double

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 July, 2009, 12:00am

The number of complaints received about retailers suspected of cheating on the weight of fruit doubled in the first half of this year, with six retailers convicted and fined.

Customs and Excise Department figures show there were 53 complaints in first half of the year, compared with 26 received in same period last year. Six fruit retailers were convicted in the first six months of this year, compared with 10 convicted in the same period last year.

Investigations revealed that two of the fruit retailers convicted this year had used defective weighing equipment, and the other four had overstated weight when they sold goods to undercover officers.

The fruit they had sold included grapes, cherries, cherry tomatoes, lychees and longans. Customs launched an operation against suspect fruit vendors late last year. Officers posing as customers have been buying fruit and seafood in various districts of the city.

Customers complained that 69 seafood retailers had tried to take advantage of them. Fifteen of them were convicted. The seafood they sold with short weight included shrimp, crab and squid.

Tests by Government Laboratory officers showed the discrepancy between the actual weight and the purported weight of the goods sold ranged from between 5 per cent and 55 per cent.

A seafood retailer in Nelson Street, Mong Kok, sold crabs that weighed just half of what was claimed. The 15 seafood and six fruit retailers convicted received fines ranging from HK$500 to HK$6,500.

A customs spokesman said that another seven seafood retailers and two fruit retailers recently found allegedly committing the same offence would be prosecuted soon. Customs would continue to crack down on retailers who cheated on weight to protect consumers' interests, he said.

A focus would be sales of seasonal fruit such as cherries and lychees in coming weeks.

According to the Weights and Measures Ordinance, goods traded by weight or measure must be supplied by net weight or measure.

The maximum penalty for a retailer supplying a quantity of goods short of what is claimed is a fine of HK$10,000.