Consumer protection in Hong Kong

Online shoppers beware: Complaints against shady sellers rose 23 per cent last year, Hong Kong consumer watchdog says

They included 89 cases of buyers who got scammed by sellers offering cash on delivery terms

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 March, 2018, 6:00pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 March, 2018, 11:06pm

Online shoppers beware: Shady e-commerce practices rose last year, with the consumer watchdog receiving about 4,000 complaints, an increase of 23 per cent from 2016.

Many were irate buyers who said that their online purchases, when delivered, did not match the initial description or their expectations.

The Consumer Council revealed that 89 cases had to do with buyers being scammed by sellers offering a cash on delivery option.

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It gave some examples in its monthly report of issues affecting consumers.

In one case, a shopper bought a coat bearing a well-known British brand from an online seller. She paid HK$429 (US$55) on receiving her package, but then found the coat was from a Korean brand. Seeking redress, she contacted the seller, who agreed to refund her 40 per cent of the payment. But subsequent attempts to contact the person fell through.

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In the second case, a shopper who wanted a HK$900 backpack was told that she could get two bags for the same price, and return the goods – no strings attached – if they were not up to scratch.

The courier who delivered the bags insisted on collecting payment first, but when the buyer inspected the goods and wanted to return them, the courier refused. Attempts by the buyer to get her money back failed when the online shop went out of business.

The council’s chairman for its publicity and community relations committee, Clement Chan Kam-wing, urged consumers to be more vigilant and for law enforcers to clamp down on errant sellers.

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Chan, however, stressed that he did not mean to tar all online sellers with the same brush, and that there were many respectable e-commerce merchants.

Noting that World Consumer Rights Day was on Friday, the council’s chief executive Gilly Wong Fung-han said consumers should not let down their guard when they saw deals that seemed to good to be true.

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“Many consumers think it won’t happen to me, I won’t fall into that trap. That ‘not me’ attitude reminds us that it is very risky, that’s why it is very important to remind consumers [of cases of online malpractice],” she said.

The council pledged to continue being a watchdog for Hong Kong consumers. It said it would focus on fairer and safe internet services, tackling online fraud and scams and boosting online consumer protection.