Consumer Council issues warning on buying flowers, shopping online

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 January, 2013, 3:45am

Ordering flowers to surprise a loved one on a special occasion may end in frustration if the buyer has not checked the purchase terms, the Consumer Council warned yesterday.

Withered blossoms and non-arrival on the requested date are among 58 complaints about florists that the council has received in the past three years.

Vice-chairman Ambrose Ho Pui-him said many online flower services did not guarantee the delivery date while some did not guarantee the quality of bouquets bought through group-purchase schemes.

"Consumers should look at the terms, not just the price, when ordering flowers, especially online," Ho said.

One complainant ordered a HK$1,066 bouquet for his wife on Valentine's Day but the flowers did not arrive. He filed a complaint by e-mail that night but received no response. When he resent it two days later, the shop offered a redelivery. He asked for a full refund but the shop did not respond. When he complained to the council, it advised him to apply for a chargeback from his credit card company. He did not seek further help.

The man's case was among three published in the latest issue of the council's Choice magazine released yesterday. The council advised consumers to read the terms, including refund arrangements, carefully before ordering.

Ho also warned of the risk of buying via group-purchase websites and of extra fees, such as during festivals, for delivery outside business hours, or when the recipient was unavailable.

Choice magazine also told of an internet user who paid HK$250,000 to access online games for life, only to have the service provider close down four years later. The extreme example was one of 136 complaints about online games that the council received last year.

"Whenever you make pre-payments, you have to trust the service provider. When they end their business, you may not be compensated," said Ho.

The council also urged consumers to beware of burns and electrical accidents while using hair straighteners and curlers after some failed safety tests.

Five of 12 such devices tested by the council lacked adequate electrical insulation. "When using these tools, don't use them for too long, at too high temperatures or too often," Ho said.