"As a statutory body with almost half a century’s record in consumer protection, the Consumer Council will continue to trail new frontiers in the advocacy of consumer rights amidst today’s constantly evolving marketplace. It is my great honour to serve as Chairman of the Council and make good use of my profession to serve consumers in Hong Kong."
As a statutory body for consumer protection in Hong Kong, the Consumer Council (the Council) has staunchly advocated and championed consumer rights since its establishment in 1974. Almost half a century has since elapsed, yet the fact remains that every aspect of our daily life is closely connected with consumption, be it the basic necessities and price of groceries in wet markets decades ago, or the 5G internet connection, smart home appliances, online shopping and shipping in the present day. In today’s constantly evolving marketplace, the role of the Council has become more important than ever. It is my great honour to serve as Chairman of the Council, to continue to propel the Council’s vision and protect consumer rights in Hong Kong.
Society’s paradigm shift towards a digital world has driven various industries to embark on the digital transformation journey in recent years. With online shopping becoming popular and the emergence of new industries, services and products offering convenience to consumers and traders, new challenges have cropped up in tandem with the prevalence of e-commerce. To strengthen consumer protection amidst this new normal, two factors are crucial: whether laws and regulations can keep up with the changes; and whether consumers have sufficient information and knowledge to make smart and informed decisions.
With regard to consumer protection legislation, a mature regulatory framework plus industry discipline can help to build a healthy market and promote fair trade between consumers and traders. Looking ahead, to cope with market innovation and changes that are beyond our imaginations, the Council will continue to actively promote advocacy and policies that protect consumer rights, while calling on different industries to improve transparency and enhance their codes of conduct. The Council will also carry on its regular reviews of existing laws and regulations to ensure their relevance, and offer timely recommendations to the authorities.
Apart from advocacy efforts, the Council will persistently empower consumers to protect themselves through various means: on the one hand conducting product tests and surveys to enhance market transparency; on the other disseminating timely information and safety alerts, such as those relating to product and food safety, across both mainstream media and online and social media platforms, so as to reach the widest spectrum of consumers across all age groups. With the belief that education is the key to empowerment and self-protection, the Council is also committed to educating consumers of all ages, especially more vulnerable groups such as youths, the mentally handicapped and senior citizens, on how to shop wisely through specifically tailored programmes, such as the Consumer Culture Study Award, the Support Programme for Persons with Special Needs, Pilot Educator Scheme for Senior Citizens, etc.
Meanwhile, for members of the public who unfortunately encounter goods or services that fall short of expectation, the Council operates an accessible platform to help resolve disputes between consumers and traders by means of conciliation. This role of the Council has become increasingly important in recent years owing to drastic changes in consumption patterns under the new normal. In particular, the Council has launched the Elderly Hotline in early 2022 to provide user-friendly and direct customer service for elderly consumers. This is but one of the many efforts by the Council to foster an age-friendly consumption environment especially amidst the ageing population.
At the same time, we should not neglect the fact that human consumption places a heavy burden on the planet and that the continuation of our current lifestyle will have irreversible consequences on our living environment. As such, sustainable consumption should be promoted urgently. To start with, consumers can reflect on ways to convert self-regarding shopping habits to comprehensive considerations of products’ impact on the environment as well as society. Sustainable and responsible shopping habits should widely be adopted so that our future generations can enjoy a more hospitable environment in ecological balance.
These challenges are not exclusive to Hong Kong, but rather universal matters of concern around the world. The Council is collaborating with consumer organisations across the globe, regularly exchanging information on consumer-related issues and new market trends to facilitate the global development of sustainable consumption.
In this swiftly evolving era that brings fresh challenges every day, the Council will uphold its core mission while continuing to progress and achieve breakthroughs in consumer protection, so as to address the needs of society and consumers and foster a better environment and culture for consumption.
Mr Clement Chan Kam-wing, BBS, MH, JP
Chairman, Consumer Council