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Consumer protection in Hong Kong

Beware dodgy websites when booking hotels, Hong Kong Consumer Council urges

Consumers also urged to cross-check advertised information through other websites or channels.

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 August, 2017, 11:56pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 August, 2017, 11:56pm

Travellers booking accommodation online should beware of dodgy websites that do not reveal how exchange rates are calculated or pull unfavourable reviews, the Consumer Council warns.

Hong Kong consumers are also urged to confirm reservations with hotels, as well as cross-check advertised information through other websites or channels.

Between January and June, the watchdog received 109 complaints about online hotel bookings, compared to 112 in the same period last year. In contrast, there were only 99 complaints for the whole of 2014.

Council chief executive Gilly Wong Fung-han said most complaints concerned disputes over prices. “Some complainants said the final price went up after the booking was confirmed, while others said the transaction still went through on the credit card even though the reservation was cancelled,” she said.

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Other complaints concerned service quality and misleading sales practices.

In one case, a traveller booked a hotel six months in advance of a trip to Japan at HK$2,900 using a “book now, pay later” clause on a website.

Some complainants said the final price went up after the booking was confirmed
Gilly Wong Fung-han, Consumer Council

As a result of changes in the value of the yen, the customer was finally charged an extra HK$150 on top of the earlier quoted price. The website, upon receiving a complaint, agreed to refund US$20 but refused to reveal how the exchange rate was calculated.

Another traveller, who booked a hotel in South Korea through another website, had to endure temperatures of minus five degrees Celsius for an hour on arrival because there were no staff on duty to welcome them.

A request for help to the website went unanswered, and the complainant called the police.

It turned out that the hotel did not even receive the reservation, but it ­offered to arrange free ­accommodation elsewhere.

In response, the website pointed the blame at a local agent in Korea, and refused to offer ­compensation.

The council suggested consumers confirm bookings with hotels directly, or verify the legitimacy of such establishments with the local tourism bureaus.