Consumers should use the right channels to air grievances
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.