Cosmetic parlours face curbs
HUNDREDS of beauty parlours which openly flout the law by offering illegal cosmetic surgery will be under the spotlight as the Legislative Council's health panel discusses control in this area on Wednesday.
Many of the parlours have been escaping prosecution because legislation is inadequate and customers are often reluctant to testify.
The Consumer Council has received 67 complaints concerning deceptive sales techniques, overcharging and poor quality service by beauty parlours in the first half of this year compared to 90 for the whole of last year.
Wednesday's meeting comes amid renewed calls from legislators, Consumer Council officials and doctors for tighter control of beauty parlours.
According to panel chairman Dr Leong Che-hung, members will ask the Government why existing laws are not being enforced.
Not a single beauty parlour has been referred to the police for prosecution in the past two years - yet many contravene the Undesirable Medical Advertisements Ordinance by openly advertising cosmetic surgery in magazines every day.
Meanwhile, the numbers of people falling victim to these back-door medical outfits is increasing each year, according to surgeons and Consumer Council officials.
And the lack of enforcement means customers are at risk of botched operations for cosmetic treatment, such as double eyelid surgery, breast augmentation and nose jobs.
Many are also bullied into parting with tens of thousands of dollars by dubious sales practices.
''It's getting worse and worse,'' Justein Wong Chun, chairman of the Consumer Council's Trade Practices Committee, said.
''These adverts are still on the street every day.
''Either way, the authorities have got to do something - if the law is not adequate, change it. If it is there, take some action.'' Critics say there are a number of problems with the existing laws, which explains why control is difficult.
The laws themselves are not comprehensive enough, and are too tightly worded, allowing clever advertisements to bypass their prohibition.
Dr Otto Au, president of the Hong Kong Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons, said the situation was getting out of control.
''Recently, it has gone from bad to worse,'' he said.
''Number one, they advertise openly that they do plastic surgery.
''Number two, they use regular doctors, which implies they split the fees, which is not allowed.
''Number three, maybe even some beauticians are doing [the operations] themselves, which they are not qualified to do.'' Advertisements rarely mention surgery. Instead they suggest dramatic changes such as enlarged breasts or a smaller nose can be brought about through non-invasive treatments, such as herbal remedies.
''To my mind, they are blatantly contravening this particular ordinance,'' said Dr Leong.
Mr Wong agreed, adding: ''We have referred these cases to the police when we have received complaints. The law is there but nobody is being prosecuted.''