• Mon
  • Sep 22, 2014
  • Updated: 9:10pm
CommentInsight & Opinion

Consumers should use the right channels to air grievances

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 February, 2014, 3:36am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 February, 2014, 3:51am

Consumers who do not get what they pay for have every right to pursue compensation and there are well established channels to do so. Shoppers, for instance, can file a complaint to the Consumer Council. Tourists with unpleasant experiences can seek help from the Travel Industry Council. These long-standing mechanisms have served consumers well.

Regrettably, there is a growing tendency for consumers to seek redress through radical actions. In a 13-hour drama, hundreds of cruise passengers on board the Costa Victoria refused to disembark after the trip. They claimed the travel agency and the cruise company were not offering enough compensation for cancelling a land visit to the scenic Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, one of the highlights of the five-day journey.

Having paid HK$8,000 to HK$18,000 for the cruise, passengers were naturally disappointed when they did not get what they expected. But it would seem unreasonable to hold tour operators responsible when the trips are cancelled due to reasons beyond their control. The visit was said to be cancelled because the port was closed following a marine accident. Despite compensation of HK$340 - the land-visit fee - and a spending credit of US$50 per cabin, the passengers remained dissatisfied and demanded a 70 per cent refund of the cruise fee. They effectively held up the vessel and delayed the journey of 2,000 passengers to Malaysia until midnight.

This is not the first time disgruntled tourists have resorted to sit-in protests to get what they want. Shortly before Christmas, scores of mainlanders en route to Taiwan refused to leave the tour bus at the Lok Ma Chau border crossing due to a visa row. Two years ago, a group of air passengers on the mainland took it further when they stormed on to the runway following a 16-hour flight delay at the Pudong airport in Shanghai. However unhappy the experience, it's no excuse to resort to the extreme. The stand-off has damaged our image and the cruise business. Such irresponsible actions are to be discouraged. Grievances should be handled through established complaint channels.


For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

Agree. Shouldn't they be sued by the cruise company for the loss and inconvenience they caused to the second lot of passengers? I am glad that the latter did not in turn sue the company for the delay to their holiday.
Ann Chiang Lai-wan, as a legislative councillor, had a real opportunity (and arguably a duty) to help resolve the matter in a way that could be seen as fair, reasonable and most importantly, within the accepted laws of Hong Kong. But by refusing to leave private property (the cruise ship), it actually reinforced the acceptance of radical behaviour in place of a measured and more rationale method via well established channels (the consumer council, courts of law).
So even though the protesters (and Ann) got what they wanted in the end, sometimes it is forgotten that it is not just the results, it is the way the results were achieved that is also important.
This is the first time that Hong Kong travellers have used such a radical and irrational means to press for a solution to their travel-related grievances. According to news reports, Legislative Councillor Ann Chiang Lai-wan, herself a cruise passenger, has played a significant role in the whole affair, which has certainly helped put Hong Kong travellers in the same category of their mainland cousins.
I had a problem recently with a local appliance company regarding an extended warranty which I purchased at around 20% of the original cost. When the vacuum cleaner went on the fritz, the store informed us we would have to take the appliance personally to somewhere in the NT. This caveat was not in their original deal but they insisted that this was their "policy".
I referred this to the Consumer Council who turned out to be polite, responsive and very efficient.
The Consumer Council acted professionally and negotiated a reasonable result with an unreasonable retailer. All in all, an impressive experience and outcome.
HK is lucky to have such a resource which actually helps make Honkie life a little easier, and I highly recommend the free services of our Consumer Council if you feel you have been dudded.
Good to know. Congratulations to Consumer Council. I didn't know it did these things.


SCMP.com Account