Wellcome has been fined HK$10,000 for misleading shoppers with a "special offer" for potato chips.
The first conviction of a supermarket under new consumer protection laws that took effect in July last year came after the chain was found to be offering two bags of chips at a "discounted" price that was in fact higher than if the bags had been bought separately.
The company pleaded guilty to possessing goods with a false trade description. Kwun Tong Court heard that a brand of chips at a Yau Ma Tei store had a price tag reading "standard price $5.50, discounted price $11.50 for two".
"If traders make price comparisons, they should be able to show clearly what prices are being compared, and to show that any claims so made are accurate and valid - in particular, that any price advantage claimed is real," the Customs and Excise Department, which laid the charge, said yesterday.
The Consumer Council also warned shoppers to be sceptical about discounts. "[They] should not put their total trust in discount tags. They should calculate the amount themselves before making a decision," chief executive Gilly Wong Fung-han said.
The amended Trade Descriptions Ordinance makes it an offence for traders to provide false or misleading trade descriptions, including price information, for goods or services.
The department said its officers found the misleading offer when they visited the store after a complaint. The conviction was entered on Thursday last week.
Under the ordinance, any person who gives out false trade descriptions commits a criminal offence. The maximum penalty is a fine of HK$500,000 and imprisonment for five years. Trade description covers price, how price is calculated, or the existence of any price advantage or discount.
Wong would not comment on the Wellcome fine, saying she respected the court's decision.
The council received about 3,600 complaints against unfair sales tactics last year, of which less than half were about misleading descriptions or omissions of vital information. About two dozen were about supermarkets' sales tactics, Wong said.