Hong Kong consumer watchdog warns drivers not to let car beauty companies take them for a ride

Alert raised after the council received complaints related to such pricey services, which include coating and installation of heat insulation films

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 November, 2016, 8:16pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 November, 2016, 10:29pm

The city’s consumer watchdog has warned of unscrupulous traders after receiving complaints about car beauty services, with one case involving a fee of more than HK$10,000 for an “automotive coating service” which allegedly turned out to be just regular car waxing.

Car beauty services, which have become trendy in Hong Kong in recent years, may sometimes fall below consumers’ expectations despite their hefty price tags, the Consumer Council said in its latest issue of Choice magazine.

In one case, a female car owner surnamed Cheung was persuaded into getting a brand new automotive coating service, which claimed to “protect cars from corrosion by pollutants and keep car paint glossy”.

Despite promotional materials saying that the service “must be performed in a dust-free work environment”, Cheung found the company used an ordinary car park for its designated service point. An employee later explained to her that building isolated rooms was not allowed in the car park and Cheung agreed to the arrangement.

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But in just three hours, the staff member called to inform her the car was ready for collection, even though its promotional brochure stated that the whole process would take at least 10 hours.

When the confused Cheung picked up her car from the site, some signs of waxing were found on the surface of the vehicle. She asked the company for an explanation as she suspected no coating had been applied to the car. She then filed a complaint to the Consumer Council.

After the council’s intervention, the car beauty services company eventually agreed to charge Cheung for only car cleaning and waxing, and would refund her HK$9,600.

“When purchasing trendy car beauty products or services, consumers should not rely only on the information provided in promotional materials,” council vice-chairman Philip Leung Kwong-hon said. Instead, car owners were advised to refer to detailed descriptions by the manufacturers to verify the true value of the products or services, he added.

In another complaint case, a car owner surnamed Kwok paid HK$6,500 for the installation of a glass heat insulation film claimed to be able to shield off 50 per cent of heat.

Upon collecting his car, Kwok found multiple bubbles and scratches on the insulation film. He also discovered that the company had used a second-class model whose heat-insulating capability was just 30 per cent.

His request for a refund was dismissed by the company, even after the Consumer Council had intervened. Kwok is now considering pursuing his claim through legal means.

The council has received 14 complaints in the first ten months of this year.