Buyers' gripes hit 3,400 after new trade descriptions law comes into effect

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 July, 2014, 4:02am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 December, 2016, 5:06pm

The Consumer Council has received 3,463 complaints over unfair selling practices since the amended Trade Descriptions Ordinance took effect a year ago.

One complaint involved HK$473,500 - the highest amount in any of the cases - over a property trading scandal last year, when the sale of hotel suites developed by Cheung Kong Holdings was cancelled.

Most complaints involved medicine, telecommunication services, recreation or health clubs and food and entertainment services among others, the council said yesterday.

Almost 60 per cent of the complaints were about false or misleading trade descriptions, while others involved aggressive commercial practices, wrongly accepted payment and misleading omissions in descriptions. More than a quarter were made by tourists, of which almost 90 per cent were by mainland tourists.

Council chairman Professor Wong Yuk-shan said the high number of complaints received was because of the effort the government and the council had put in to promoting the new law.

Amendments to the Trade Descriptions Ordinance in July last year expanded its coverage from goods to services.

"The most important reason is that there is greater awareness among consumers," Wong said. "They know that now there is an opportunity to launch a complaint or take legal action."

Wong said 281 cases were referred to the Customs and Excise Department for investigation.

The complaint that involved the largest amount of money came about in May last year after Cheung Kong Holdings cancelled the sale of 360 hotel units at its Apex Horizon project in Kwai Chung. The cancellation followed an official investigation into whether the developer had exploited a legal loophole to help property buyers avoid incurring a residential stamp duty.

One buyer filed a complaint but turned down Cheung Kong's offer to return the deposit plus expenses. He later sought further help from a lawmaker.

In another case, one consumer had to pay HK$8,800 for dried fish maw because the shop did not reveal that the fish maw, labelled at HK$550, was sold by the tael instead of the catty (16 taels, about 600 grams).

Wong said the council would continue to monitor the trend of consumer complaints.