How to be a smarter online shopper so you don't get taken advantage of

The council received 89 complaints last year that involved people purchasing things online, only to find their goods didn’t match the online description

Joshua Lee |

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People need to be more careful when buying things online, said the Consumer Council.

The warning comes after the council received 89 complaints last year involving people who had bought products online and paid for them, only to discover that the products were in poor condition, or did not match the description advertised online.

In one case, a shopper bought a pair of trainers through a social media platform. The shopper paid HK$490 for the shoes when they were delivered by a courier. When he opened the packaging, he found the shoes were badly made. The left and right shoes weren’t even the same size as each other.

The shopper asked for a refund from the seller via email, who said that to secure a refund he would need to return the shoes first. The shopper paid the courier HK$58 to send the shoes back to the seller, and expected them to return with his money. However, no refund was delivered.

The shopper tried to pursue the case further, but he was unable to find the seller. The address given for the online shop was the address of a container port terminal, and the name of the sender on the delivery receipt was a few random English letters. The case was later passed on to the Customs and Excise Department.


The council said shoppers need to choose online stores with a good reputation, should find out how to make payments and refunds before they buy, and should keep careful records of their communications with the retailers.

Venus Kwong, 16, sometimes buys items like phone cases, bags, and stuffed toys from online sellers on Instagram. The Creative Secondary School student normally pays for goods by depositing cash into the seller’s account at an ATM, and collects her shopping from a delivery service.

Venus said she has not had any major issues when shopping online, but thinks it’s important to buy from trusted sources.

“I won’t buy things from stores my friends haven’t tried before,” she said. “I also have a good relationship with the people who sells the goods.”

Her classmate, Cynthia So, said she has had many bad experiences shopping online, and now only buys from physical stores.

“I bought a microphone from Taobao two months ago. I spent HK$100,” the 16-year-old said. “When it was delivered it looked fine, but it broke after the third or fourth time I used it.” Cynthia added that she didn’t ask for a refund because she did not want to spend any more time or effort on it.

Edited by Ginny Wong