Complaints on internet shopping rise sharply

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 May, 2011, 12:00am


The net may be convenient for shopping, but it is also a convenient way for scammers to find victims.

The Consumer Council is receiving a growing number of complaints from people who paid online but did not get the goods they expected. There were 439 such complaints last year - a 230 per cent rise from 2009.

The council wants the government to pass laws regulating the fast-growing online shopping industry and to protect consumers from scammers. In a case highlighted in the Consumer Council's CHOICE magazine, an overseas online shopper paid a HK$20,000 deposit for a lawnmower from a Hong Kong firm. The lawnmower never arrived and the company vanished. Neither the shopper nor the Consumer Council could contact the firm. The portal that hosted it refused to follow up.

The council warned online shoppers to take extra precautions before making a deal on the internet, and to avoid transactions involving large sums. Paying through a reputable third party gateway is also better than paying the seller directly. Online shoppers should also buy through reputable shopping sites with transaction records and ratings schemes.

Online shops can often be hard to trace and the council says it can only handle disputes that occur in Hong Kong or with Hong Kong companies. If a company is registered outside the city, the council cannot mediate.

The council suggested that the government look into setting up stricter rules to regulate the industry.