Greedy pharmacists eroding healthy future

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 October, 2015, 4:03pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 October, 2015, 4:03pm

Earlier this year People's Daily reported that mainland visitors were being ripped off by some pharmacies in Hong Kong charging very high prices for products such as herbal oil.

Many of these visitors are coming here to make purchases because there are so many fake products north of the border, such as milk powder, and they may even contain toxic ingredients.

They fear for the effects on their family's health. They trust what they buy in Hong Kong because of its reputation as an international city. So they believe what they are being told in shops here.

Unscrupulous vendors at some pharmacies are taking advantage of this level of trust and reckon the visitors will pay, no matter how high the price. Of course, many mainland citizens are taken in.

In one case a mainland woman was charged HK$20,000 for a bottle of herbal oil that should cost HK$200, the paper reported. She did return to the shop, but was told that was the right price and then complained to the Consumer Council before leaving the city without a refund.

This is just one case, but I am sure there are many more of these rip-offs of gullible tourists taking place. If it keeps happening and does not stop, it could damage Hong Kong's image. These pharmacies represent Hong Kong as retailers of medicine. If more tourists get cheated, surely they will end up losing faith in these pharmacies just as they have done with similar shops north of the border.

It does not help Hong Kong nor the retail pharmacy sector. These shopkeepers may make a lot of money in the short term, but in the long term they, and the rest of the sector, will lose out. Fewer mainland visitors will spend their money here.

The General Chamber of Pharmacy must act. Pharmacies which have been shown to have ripped off customers should have their membership of the chamber revoked.

Also the government should issue a booklet for visitors which lists those shops which are members of the chamber. They can use these retail outlets confident that they are less likely to be cheated.

Chloe Tong Ka-ling, Tai Po