Hong Kong 2006
Chapter 5:
Commerce and Industry
Merchandise Trade Performance
The Manufacturing Sector
The Services Sector
External Investment
The Institutional Framework
External Commercial Relations
Small and Medium Enterprises
Promotion of Innovation and Technology
Protection of Intellectual Property Rights
Professional Services Development Assistance Scheme
Business Facilitation
Trade Documentation
Hong Kong Awards for Industries
Trade and Industrial Support Organisations
Standards and Conformance Services
Human Resources, Technical Education and Industrial Training
Consumer Protection
Trade in Endangered Species
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Consumer Protection

Consumer Council

The Consumer Council is a statutory body that was established in 1974 to protect and promote the interests of consumers of goods and services and purchasers, mortgagors and lessees of immovable property. The council comprises 22 members appointed by the Government from a wide spectrum of the community.

The council's key activities include testing and survey programmes, complaint and advice services, consumer policy studies, publications and consumer education initiatives.

The council's testing and survey programmes seek to provide consumers with objective and up-to-date information so that they can make informed choices. During the year, 43 product tests, 16 survey projects and 44 in-depth studies were completed, covering a wide range of product and service areas from LCD TVs and air conditioners to water treatment devices and PAAG breast augmentation to telecommunications and financial services. Popular electronic products such as digital cameras, mobile phones and MP3 players were also regularly tested. Products were tested mainly for safety, performance, convenience, durability and environmental impact.

The council provides complaint and advisory services to the community through telephone hotlines, eight Consumer Advice Centres and the council's website. It acts as a mediator between consumers and the traders concerned. During the year, 35 962 consumer complaints and 166 180 consumer enquiries were received. Problems with telecommunications services continued to top the list of consumer complaints.

The council also monitors trade practices and competition-related issues that may have implications for consumer welfare. In June 2006, it issued the first voluntary code of practice for Hong Kong's fast growing beauty industry. In October, it released the Good Corporate Citizen's Guide II which provides in detail a set of principles upon which businesses can perform their role in the marketplace, and a guide to consumers as to their corresponding rights and responsibilities. During the year, it made 24 submissions in response to public consultation on subjects such as the establishment of the Communications Authority, and examined a number of matters related to trade practices such as unsolicited electronic messages and closure of bank branches. The council's chairman and chief executive are respectively members of the Government's Competition Policy Review Committee and the Competition Policy Advisory Group.

To provide consumers with independent and impartial market information, the council publishes the findings of its product tests and surveys together with practical advice and viewpoints to the public through its monthly magazine, CHOICE, which offers broad, multi-media access available in print, on the Internet as well as through residential fixed-line and mobile phones. In 2006, the council continued to organise the Consumer Rights Reporting Awards for the media and the public vote on the Top Ten Consumer News for the Year of the Rooster.

The seventh Consumer Culture Study Award organised during the year encouraged secondary school students to conduct their own studies of local consumer culture. In all, 696 teams, comprising 4 000 students from 125 secondary schools, participated in this programme.

In addition, a total of 380 teachers had completed a web-based teacher's development course on consumer education, which was commissioned by the Education and Manpower Bureau and has been organised by the council since March 2004.

The council has continued to administer the Consumer Legal Action Fund, which enhances consumer access to legal remedies. In 2006, the fund considered 18 cases and granted assistance in two cases. Two cases carried over from previous years were successful in their claims.

The council is an executive and council member of Consumers International, a federation of 230 consumer organisations in 113 countries and territories. The council's chief executive is a former president of the federation. The council also maintains regular contact with counterparts overseas and on the Mainland, and exchanges information, handles consumer complaints by tourists and considers initiatives to pursue wider consumer interests.

Enforcement of Consumer Protection Legislation

The Customs and Excise Department carries out spot checks and investigations to ensure that toys, children's products and consumer goods supplied in Hong Kong are safe. It also has a responsibility to protect consumers from fraudulent traders who offer goods of deceptive weights and measures or products made of gold and platinum that have deceptive markings. In 2006, the department carried out 3 541 spot checks and 1 148 investigations.

The Government Laboratory provides analytical and advisory services to the Customs and Excise Department in support of the enforcement of the consumer protection legislation. In 2006, the laboratory carried out 24 217 tests on toys, children's products and consumer goods to determine whether the items were in compliance with relevant safety standards. The laboratory also carried out weight determination of retailed goods and on-site verification of traders' balances in the enforcement of the Weights and Measures Ordinance. In the year, the laboratory conducted more than 6 500 tests in the examination of gold articles and other commodities, most of the tests were in connection with the investigation of fraudulent trade practices under the Trade Descriptions Ordinance.

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