Hong Kong has seen an increase in complaints regarding bait advertising and bait-and-switch cases, when compared to the previous financial year.
Algernon Yau, secretary for commerce and economic development said in a written response to lawmaker Chan Kin Por, that out of all unfair trade practices related complaints received by the Consumer Council this financial year, the false trade descriptions category has the highest number of complaints (824), followed by misleading omissions (207) and aggressive commercial practices (135).
The number of complaints regarding bait advertising has reached 65 this financial year, representing a slight increase from the previous financial year (31).
Meanwhile, the number of complaints related to bait-and-switch has also surged from 19 during 2021 to 2022 to 54 this financial year.
The Customs and Excise Department (C&ED) said it has investigated 470 cases during the period from 2020 to the end of September 2023, including the issuance of warning or advisory letters to traders and sales staff concerned in 73 cases.
The bureau also said that it convicted 251 cases among 276 prosecutions, representing a prosecution rate of over 90%. 77 cases have been imposed imprisonment, with the maximum term of imprisonment of 27 months, the heaviest prison sentence for unfair trade practices so far.
Regarding corresponding measures taken in the past three years to combat unfair trade practices, the C&ED said it proactively visited different industries and conducted briefings and provided traders with guidance on legal requirements under the Trade Descriptions Ordinance.
The bureau added that it has also launched education programmes in collaboration with the Consumer Council aiming to raise consumers’ awareness of unfair trade practices, including the distribution of promotional leaflets at shopping hotspots during festive seasons and promotional videos on its official social media accounts.
In addition, regarding the proposal to stipulate a statutory cooling-off period for beauty and fitness services consumer contracts through legislation having disrupted by social situation since the second half of 2019 shortly after the public consultation, the C&ED stated the government would review the proposal based on economic situations, relevant complaints, enforcement statistics and other “prevailing circumstances” before taking further actions.
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