WITH the publication yesterday of the Law Reform Commission (LRC) recommendations on how they must describe flats for sale, developers no longer have any excuse for the kind of misrepresentation of floor area, living space and basic amenities in their properties which have caused such distress among home-buyers in the past. The wheels of the LRC have ground slowly enough over the past three years. No doubt it will be months before the Government's law drafters get around to putting the recommendations into legal language and tabling the necessary amendments to the Buildings Ordinance in the Legislative Council. But the writing for the cowboy operators is now on the wall. Consumers must hope they should get used to the coming regulatory climate now, rather than wait for the last possible moment before changing their ways. If the Government follows the LRC's recommendations closely, fines for misrepresentation will be tough. Developers who have continued to thumb their noses at public opinion in the interim should be the first to feel the force of the law when it is finally introduced. Nevertheless, despite the long list of recommendations and the prospect of legal sanctions for misleading sales literature in the future, the consumer should not expect to be able to relax his guard. The proposals do not, for instance, eliminate the practice of including the thickness of balcony walls or 'common areas' such as landings, caretaker's quarters and management offices from the calculation of gross floor area. They merely standardise what it will be acceptable to include in the calculation in future and what should not be included. No one should make the mistake of assuming gross floor area will in future equate with usable floor area inside their new home. Home-buying will remain the most expensive single investment most people make in a lifetime. Mistakes can be painful as well as expensive and difficult to rectify. No matter how carefully the law regulates developers' behaviour, it is still, ultimately, a case of caveat emptor, let the buyer beware. That is the Hong Kong way of doing things. It will not be discarded just because a limited degree of consumer protection is at last getting onto the statute books.