A director of a beauty shop that took HK$30,000 in advance payment for treatments even as it prepared to close has become the first person convicted for dishonestly withholding information from customers.
Chan Yuen-kiu, of Aqua Beaute Service, was fined HK$4,000 by Kowloon City Court yesterday after pleading guilty to misleading customers by failing to provide material information: namely that the business was about to close, sell its equipment and pass customers to another shop.
The offence was introduced as part of an amendment to the Trade Descriptions Ordinance last year that banned traders from providing false or misleading descriptions.
A spokesman for the Customs and Excise Department said it had received four complaints against the shop involving a total of HK$31,750 in deposits.
"Investigation by the department revealed that the beauty shop sold prepaid beauty services to consumers but hid the material information that the beauty shop was planning to terminate its business," he said.
"It then sold all its beauty equipment and clients to another beauty shop in a short period of time."
Because the shop did not offer the information, customers could not make an "informed decision" on whether to book the treatment, the spokesman said.
The spokesman reminded traders that it was their responsibility under the ordinance to provide accurate, clear and timely information to all customers.
The maximum penalty for breaching the rules on honest trading is a five-year prison sentence and a fine of HK$500,000.
While Chan was the first person convicted of withholding information from a customer, traders have been fined for misleading behaviour.
Supermarket giant Wellcome was fined HK$10,000 in February over a misleading "special offer" on potato chips, while seven women were arrested in August for misleading customers into buying dried abalone and ginseng.