Consumer protection in Hong Kong

Hong Kong Consumer Council warns travellers to be wary when using agencies to buy services

Growing trend of tourists planning their own itinerary means travel industry must improve after-sales services, consumer watchdog boss Gilly Wong says

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2018, 6:34pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2018, 8:58pm

Hong Kong’s consumer watchdog on Wednesday urged holidaymakers to be cautious when purchasing services through travel agents, after it received a dozen complaints about companies.

Although the number of complaints in the first seven months of 2018 was about the same as for the January to July period last year, the Consumer Council highlighted problem areas after some companies failed to deliver products travellers had paid for.

Consumer Council chief executive Gilly Wong Fung-han said there was a growing trend of tourists planning their own itinerary and it was important for the industry to improve its after-sales services.

“The customers are already overseas and if the services do not meet their expectations or even have not been delivered, they have to seek help from the agents they bought the products from,” Wong said.

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Among those who complained was a woman who used a travel agent’s mobile app to sign up for a guided sightseeing tour and paid HK$900 (US$115) with her credit card in South Korea. But on the day of the tour, the guide said her booking was not on the passenger manifest.

The woman called the company hotline immediately and was told her booking was for the next departure. But after waiting 30 minutes, the travel agent then said her tour had already departed.

The woman tried to get compensation but it was not easy. The dispute was eventually resolved after the council stepped in and referred her complaint to the Travel Industry Council (TIC).

In another case last year, a man used a travel agency website to buy three tickets, for HK$204 in total, for an arts exhibition in Macau. According to the receipt, the tickets were valid until the end of the year, but when he arrived in the city to see the exhibition, he was told it had finished.

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He then asked for a refund, but the agency did not reply. After the council passed the case to the TIC, the agency said there had been a glitch in its email system and it had already contacted the complainant to follow up on his demand for a refund.

“In all the cases we used for illustration, the quality of service was not up to standard,” Wong said.

The council urged consumers to check whether the companies were licensed agents in the city before making purchases, adding they should retain all records of communications and transactions as documentary proof for redress in the event of problems.