PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 August, 2011, 12:00am


Beware of the old bait and switch

I would advise those, like me, visiting Hong Kong to beware when buying an iPhone, iPad, video camera or still camera if they are offered an unusually good price.

They stand an excellent chance of being ripped off, especially on Nathan Road.

I had this experience at the hands of a consummate 'bait and switch' operator.

As the Consumer Council points out, the salesman offers the unwary customer a competitive price quote and, through persuasion and fabrication, persuades the shopper to purchase goods other than those he or she wanted in the first place.

The victim is persuaded to switch to a supposedly better but more expensive brand.

In my case I was told blatant lies, and instead of buying an iPhone and iPad, which were what I wanted, I was persuaded to buy what turned out to be grossly defective locally made goods at highly inflated prices.

Hong Kong has poor legal protection for victims of bait and switch. This is in contrast to jurisdictions such as Australia, Britain, the United States and Singapore.

The relevant Hong Kong legislation was amended in June 2008, but the minor changes have had little or no effect.

I note that the Consumer Council said in February last year that annual statistics 'showed that the problem with undesirable sale practices involving unfair, misleading and deceptive tactics remained a matter of grave concern'.

According to the Hong Kong Tourism Board, last year 650,680 of my fellow Australians visited Hong Kong - that is 8.4 per cent more than in 2009.

What I would say to them is, yes, do visit Hong Kong, it is a great destination - but beware of shady operators on Nathan Road.

Donald Gutteridge, Sydney, Australia

Dividend tax hits firms' profits twice

My friend and former colleague Tom Holland raised a very interesting issue in his Monitor column when he said dividend and capital gains taxes should be adopted to diversify the tax net ('Bravo Buffett! It is time to make HK's tycoons pay tax', August 23).

May I humbly suggest thinking in the opposite direction? Tom cites statistics that say only 623,000 people pay salaries tax and that only 21,000 are in the top bracket.

Imposing dividend and capital gains, then, would likely net even a tinier pool.

There is a rationale for not taxing dividends, because it represents double taxation, as corporate taxes have already been collected. Capital gains' treatment is less clear, but they should not be considered ordinary income, as they arise from longer-term investment.

The property market remains the crux of Hong Kong's cost control issues.

Maybe we should eliminate the polarised structure, with heavily subsidised public housing, which constitutes approximately 40 to 45 per cent of total supply and subsequently means dearer prices in the private sector. Calls for resumption of the Home Ownership Scheme would only exacerbate the anomalies.

Bernard Lo, Wan Chai

Ocean Park should not buy whales

I refer to the report ('Park to test water on whales', August 18), concerning Ocean Park's survey to find out what Hong Kong people think about its plan to buy a group of beluga whales ('captured in the wild') for its new North Pole display.

I would oppose the idea of Ocean Park importing these whales just for display purposes.

The beluga whale is classified as being 'near threatened'. Its numbers are decreasing rapidly.

They should be left alone in the wild, and a suitable environment should be created that helps them to breed. I am also concerned that, as efforts are taken to capture them, the marine environment will be damaged.

I think Ocean Park's motivations are financial, but the focus should not just be on making money. The priority should be protecting marine ecosystems and helping ensure these whales have a better future.

Peter Cheung, Sha Tin

Handout account rule unfair

I see on the registration form for the HK$6,000 government handout to permanent residents that claimants have to give their bank account number, which should be in their own name only and not in a joint name.

Most elderly people, like me, have joint bank accounts with their spouses, so we will not be able to receive the payout in our existing bank accounts.

Is it the government's intention that thousands of joint account holders should open new accounts in their own name to receive the payouts?

D. K. Patel, Happy Valley

Give these craftsmen licences

The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department is studying the feasibility of giving licences to the 123 unlicensed hawkers who make a living from traditional craftsmanship.

I think this could be a way to help them earn a living and avoid having to depend on welfare payments. Many of these hawkers do not want to claim Comprehensive Social Security Assistance. They would rather earn a living than depend on the government's CSSA.

Also it could help to keep these traditional crafts alive.

If the department gave these hawkers licences, they could continue using their skills, young people would learn about these different forms of traditional craftsmanship, and they would remain part of Hong Kong's heritage.

Kelvin Ng, Sha Tin

Basic Law change not so simple

I refer to the letter by Leung Ka-kit ('Bad habit to seek ruling from Beijing', August 19).

Mr Leung states that a constitutional amendment to the Basic Law would require the consent of two-thirds of lawmakers in the Legislative Council.

However, this is simply not the case.

Hong Kong has no reserve powers, because China is a unitary state and not a federal republic.

Hong Kong's government is granted autonomous devolved power by the Central People's Government, and therefore the central government through the National People's Congress can unilaterally amend the Basic Law without any advance notice to the Hong Kong SAR government or Legco.

The two-thirds majority vote in Legco comes into play only if the Hong Kong government wishes to propose a constitutional amendment.

In such a case, the consent of the chief executive and two-thirds of Hong Kong NPC deputies would also be required.

After this consent was obtained, the proposed bill would be submitted to the NPC.

The Basic Law Committee would also study any proposed bill and give its views before it was placed on the agenda of the NPC.

Peter Call, Ma On Shan

Flight paths based on many factors

I refer to the letter by Edward Tsoi ('Keep flight paths away from homes', August 12).

Sha Tin is close to the arrival flight paths for aircraft landing at Hong Kong International Airport from the northeast.

The flight paths currently used were adopted when the airport opened in 1998.

Details of these flight paths can be found at our website (www.cad.gov.hk).

The flight paths for the airport were developed through careful studies.

In accordance with international standards and recommendations, their development took into account various factors such as runway alignment, terrain environment and obstacle clearances, location of navigation aids, aircraft operating criteria, environmental consideration and airspace co-ordination with nearby airports.

We are conscious of the concern about aircraft noise in the community and have implemented a number of noise mitigation measures, which are also described in detail on our website.

Matthew Ip, senior operations officer (environmental management), Civil Aviation Department