A group of Hong Kong investors have called for laws to regulate celebrity advertising, claiming to have been misled into pouring money into a Guangdong shopping arcade project.
The investors of Taishan Landmark complained that the 70,000 square metre shopping mall had been largely deserted since it opened in late 2010 because of poor management, and that their investments were going down the drain.
They said they had been attracted to invest in the project because of endorsements by local celebrities, including a food critic and a fung shui master.
"The celebrities expressed much confidence in the project. But today, nine out of 10 of the shop lots are still empty. And the returns promised by the developers were never honoured," said the Taishan Landmark Owners' Club in a statement yesterday.
"The celebrities make a lot of money by helping sell products. But they are not responsible for the consequences … It can be said they are colluding [with the business] to cheat consumers."
The club said Hong Kong should, like the US and Canada, regulate celebrity advertising and hold them responsible if things go wrong.
But Stephen Sum Wing-nin - nicknamed Dr Mall for his strategies in promoting shopping malls, and who is supporting the affected investors - said: "Hong Kong people should treat it as a long-term investment when they invest in mainland properties.
"[They] should never aim at short-term profits. They also have to check the background and track records of the developers and the property management company. One should never make a decision after listening to some recommendations by celebrities."
About 30 per cent of the 1,700 shop lots in Taishan Landmark shopping centre were bought by Hong Kong investors, some of whom claim they had poured as much as HK$5 million into the project.