The Government has given the Consumer Council a statutory responsibility to, amongst other things, collect and disseminate information and tender advice on matters that affect the interests of consumers, and to encourage business and professional associations to establish appropriate codes of practice to regulate the activities of their members.
The Council believes it is important for the entire community that business and consumers know their rights and responsibilities in the marketplace. Having an informed marketplace and fair trade practices ensures that effective competition can occur across the dimensions of price, product choice and product quality, to the benefit of the economy as a whole. Fair trade practices also lead to greater trust by consumers in the use of market based mechanisms for the supply of goods and services, and a mutually beneficial relationship between consumers and business.
These Rules are divided into three parts:
- Trade Practices Rules;
- Complaint Handling Rules; and
- Fair Competition Rules
which seek to fulfil two objectives:
- They set a benchmark for best business practice, and provide an easy reference of those benchmarks for the community at large. Whilst there are some laws in Hong Kong that cover the issues discussed, they are scattered amongst a range of different pieces of legislation, and are not comprehensive when compared to safeguards in comparable advanced economies. For example, the Trade Practices Rules highlight what the Consumer Council considers to be unfair trade practices, but also provide references to existing legislative provisions. This should provide a useful reference for all members of the community, including business, government officials and consumers.
- They can assist professional and trade associations in considering what matters should be incorporated into their rules and codes of conduct. In March 2005, the Council produced a ‘Good Corporate Citizen’s Guide’ that addresses corporate rights and responsibilities. These Rules address some of the principles set out in the Guide as a resource for the many professional and trade associations in Hong Kong that cover a variety of different goods and services, and which operate in different commercial environments. The Council encourages associations to use the Rules in whole or in part and amend them to suit their own particular circumstances.
In summary, the Rules provide a set of principles upon which business can perform their role in the marketplace, in harmony with the wider community, for mutual benefit. The Rules, when applied voluntarily by business through relevant codes, can also complement existing legislative 3 safeguards, or provide a safeguard where no legislation exists but a need for safeguards is nonetheless required.