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Upsurge in Complaints of Wedding Photography - CHOICE # 426 (April 16, 2012)

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Wedding photography has become immensely popular in Hong Kong. Given the abundance of choices in wedding photo packages, the Consumer Council reminds the couples to pay extra attention when choosing wedding photography services.

The Consumer Council received 82 complaint cases regarding wedding photography services last year, an increase of nearly 50% when compared to 55 cases in2010.  The cases mainly involved extra charges, empty promises, late delivery and photo quality.

The April issue of CHOICE magazine outlines some common cases for consumers' reference.

Baffling array of miscellaneous charges

A complainant was talked into purchasing a wedding photography package from Company A in a wedding expo last year.  She was attracted by a photo album showing computerized touch-up effects with centerfold photos in seamless design layout.  She subscribed to the service at a discounted package price of HK$ 8,988.  However, it was only after the photo shooting that she was notified those special effect and design were not standard package items and required extra fees.  The complainant was dissatisfied with the dishonest sales tactics and took her case to the Council.

Empty verbal promises

Another complainant, Miss Lee, purchased a wedding photography package for HK$ 9,888 from Company B in wedding expo.  The package offered choice of shooting location in Hong Kong, Taipei or Taichung. Before the purchase, Miss Lee was cautious enough to ask about any additional charges and was assured by the sales lady that only the bridal make-up fee and car rental cost on the day of the shooting were not included in the package price.  She chose to take photos in Taichung and paid a deposit of HK$5,000.  However, she was later informed that there was an extra charge of HK$4,000 for shooting outside of Taipei to cover transportation and accommodation expenses of the staff members.  The complainant was disgruntled at the empty promises of the company.

On the other hand, Company B argued that the complainant was fully explained that she would have to cover the staff's transportation expenses if the shooting location was outside of Taipei.  The terms and conditions were listed out in the receipt, which also clearly stated that no verbal agreement would be accepted.  Alleging Miss Lee for breach of contract, Company B brought the case to Small Claims Tribunal requesting her to pay the outstanding balance.  Eventually, both parties agreed to settle the case, in which Miss Lee had no choice but to forfeit the deposit and Company B agreed not to collect the remaining fees.

Wedding photos are meant to capture the joyful moments of a wedding.  The Consumer Council calls on the couples to carefully select wedding photography services to avoid any disappointment.  In regard to the sales tactics of wedding photography services, the CHOICE magazine provides the following advices to consumers:

-Beware of any additional charges - Traders always promote their wedding photography services in a packaged price.  Consumers must seek details of the package from the salesperson and ask if any extra charges are required for different photo designs and effects, outdoor/overseas shooting, photo album design or copies of the digital image file.

-Don't reckon on verbal promises - Consumers should ask the sales to list out all verbal offers on service items and discounts on the receipt/contract.  Read the terms and conditions carefully before making any purchase.

-Check important service details on the contract/receipt - The contract should list out the delivery date of the photos, the right to change shooting location or date, emergency arrangement if problems arise in overseas shooting, ownership of the digital image files, etc.

-Choose a photography company with good reputation - Always choose a reliable company and fully communicate with the photographer before photo-taking to ensure satisfactory results.  Consumers should also request to review photos at the shooting spots to make sure photo effects are as expected.

-Risk of shop closure - Consumer should only pay the deposit when purchasing a photography package to minimize the loss in case of shop closure.

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