Send unscrupulous sales tactics packing

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 July, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 July, 2010, 12:00am

In a city renowned for its service industries, where our top law courts in Central and Admiralty sit amongst our symbols of affluence and consumerism, one would have expected consumer rights to be well respected. Sadly, this is far from the case.

Over the past year we have seen hundreds of yoga students left with worthless credit for yoga lessons that will not take place. Hundreds more were misled into contracts - mostly slimming or beauty-related - which they were not allowed to break when the true nature of the deal became apparent.

Every day there are more complaints from people who have been lured into signing contracts for services they do not need. 'Special offers' at supermarkets have become so common, and so loaded with deceptive calculations of how much is supposedly saved, that such phrases have lost all meaning.

Now, another common and potentially harmful trick by beauty parlours has been revealed. While many advertise that their programmes are 'managed by doctors', these so-called doctors are not dermatologists or plastic surgeons. They are more likely to be junior doctors who do not yet have specialist qualifications and require temporary jobs. Doctors from the Medical Council are warning that this situation could result in a dangerous misdiagnosis. They have called for a government crackdown.

The government has recently indicated it will amend the Trade Description Ordinance to include service industries, so false descriptions, use of high-pressure sales techniques and lock-up clauses could be made offences. In addition, the Law Reform Commission is also finalising its proposals for class-action lawsuits, which are expected to benefit consumers the most.

It is high time the government sent a strong message it will not stand for unscrupulous sales tactics - and it needs to act swiftly. We have become so saturated with tales of unethical conduct that we are in danger of becoming desensitised to such cases and will begin seeing them as part of our daily lives. For a city which prides itself on the rule of law, allowing the public to be routinely cheated is unacceptable.