The Code on Access to Information (the Code) provides a basic administrative framework for the provision of information by the Consumer Council (CC) to members of public with the objective of keeping the community well informed about CC, the services it provides and the basis for policies and directives that affect the individuals and the community as a whole.
|The Code and its provisions are generally in line with the Code adopted by all government bureaux / departments in Dec 1996. The aim of the Code is to provide information as promptly and as helpfully as possible.
Information to be published or made available routinely
CC will publish via its Annual Report and official website on the followings:-
Information to be provided on request
CC will also, on request, provide additional information relating to its policies, services, and other matters falling within its areas of responsibility, except for requests for information listed in the areas in Annex I which may be refused.
Information relating to consumer complaints
All complaint cases received and handled by CC should be graded as confidential. Information relating to consumer complaints may be used for the proper discharge of the Council’s statutory functions. Such may include providing complaint statistics recorded by the Council under particular product/service category, publication of individual cases in its CHOICE magazine, articles and social media, and tendering advice to Government or regulatory bodies or referral of case information to them for follow up investigation or action into suspected contravention.
Personal data of the complainant should be handled according to the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance (PDPO). The identity of the complainant will be kept confidential and must not be disclosed to other outside parties except in accordance with the personal information collection statement, with the express consent of the complainant or under the related law on prevention of crime, and other exemptions under the PDPO or as required or authorized by law.
If it is decided that a case should be referred to the Government departments or other regulatory bodies and agencies, prior consent from the complainant will be sought if his/her name and contact and other related information are to be transferred to the third party.
Legal obligations and restrictions
The Code is administrative in nature and does not affect statutory rights of access to information. Equally the Code does not affect legal restrictions on access to information whether these are statutory prohibitions (including but not limited to the provisions in the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance (PDPO) and the Consumer Council Ordinance), or obligations arising under any applicable law, contractual arrangement or international agreement which applies to Hong Kong or CC.
Access to Information Officer
The Compliance and Administration Officer (CoAdO) of CC will be the designated staff responsible for handling and overseeing the application of the Code.
Requests for Information
Requests for information may be made orally or in writing.
Oral requests will usually suffice where the information sought can be provided readily and simply, for example by oral replies or provision of leaflets or standard forms. CC staff may, however, ask for an oral request to be confirmed in writing where necessary or appropriate.
Written requests may be made by letter or by the application form below, and should be addressed to CoAdO of CC.
Requests for access to and/or correction of an individual’s own personal data held by CC will be dealt with separately pursuant to the requirements of the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance and is outside the scope of this code. The relevant procedures are available at CC’s website: https://www.consumer.org.hk/en/privacy-policy
Reponses to Requests for Information
Responses to requests for information will be given in a timely manner as stipulated in para 3.4 – Target Response Time.
Where a request, whether written or oral, cannot adequately be met by an oral reply or provision of a leaflet, standard form etc., the information may be given, subject to Annex I, by the following ways:-
The Code does not oblige CC to:-
In these circumstances, an applicant for information will, where possible, be directed to the appropriate source of information.
However, if CC receives a written request for information which is held by other government departments / public bodies / regulatory bodies etc, it will transfer the request to that department / organization and so advise the applicant.
Target Response Time
Where possible, information will be made available within 10 calendar days after the receipt of a written request. If this is not possible, an interim reply should be provided in which case the timeframe will be extended to 21 calendar days from receipt of the request.
If a request is to be refused, the applicant will be so informed within the timeframe set out in para 3.4.1 above.
Response may be deferred beyond 21 calendar days only in exceptional circumstances, and explanation should be given to the application. Any deferral and extension necessary should be kept to a minimum and should not normally exceed a further 30 calendar days.
These targets may be extended if necessary to accommodate the third party procedures set out in para 7.1 – 7.3 below, or where the applicant fails to pay any charges levied in accordance with para 8.1 below.
4. Procedures for Refusing to Disclose Information
When a request for information is to be refused or partially refused, the applicant concerned must be informed of:-
Paragraph 4.1 above also applies to cases in which there is good reason for CC to :-
5. Level of Decision Making
CoAdO will, in consultation with the subject officer responsible for the particular area of work covered by the request of information, decide on whether a particular request for information should be met.
Where the case is complex or a refusal to disclose all or part of the information is contemplated, the final decision will be made at the level of Chief Executive / Deputy Chief Executive (CE / DCE) of CC.
6. Internal Review Procedure
Any request for review should be considered by CE / DCE. The target response time mentioned in para 3.4 above should be adhered to in handling requests for review.
7. Third Party Information
Where information requested is held for, or was provided by, a third party under an explicit or implicit understanding that it would not be further disclosed, but such information could be disclosable under the Code, CC will try to invite the third party to consent to or make representations against disclosure if appropriate. The third party will be asked to respond within 30 calendar days or such reasonable longer period as he may be granted on request.
On receipt of consent from the third party, the information may be disclosed.
If the third party makes representations against disclosure, or fails to respond within the stipulated time, CC will not disclose the information requested as no consent was given by the third party.
Processing requests for information uses resources of CC and may therefore require payment for this kind of services. Any charges levied will reflect the cost of providing the information, and the information will not be released until the requisite payment has been made. CC will monitor and review the issue of charges as and when necessary.
9. Appeal for a review
Any person who believes that CC has failed to comply with any provision of the Code may ask CC to review the situation and lodge a complaint to the attention of the CE / DCE of CC. The target response time set out in para 3.4 above also applies to requests for review.
Any person who believes that CC has failed to properly apply any provision of the Code may also complain to the Ombudsman.
10. Monitoring and Review
The Code is subject to regular reviews as to ascertain its smooth implementation and identify areas of improvement if deemed necessary.
Information which may be refused (with reference to the Part 2 of Code on Access to Information of the Government published in Feb 2009)
CC may refuse to disclose information, or may refuse to confirm or deny the existence of information, in the categories and for the reasons set out below, which will normally be referred to if a request is refused.
However, in deciding whether disclosure of information may be refused, CC will take into account whether the public interest factors outweigh any possible risk of harm or prejudice that could result in such information disclosure.
I. External Affairs
II. Law Enforcement, Legal Proceedings and Public Safety
III. Management and Operation of the Public Service
IV. Internal Discussion and Advice
V. Public Employment and Public Appointments
VI. Improper Gain or Advantage
VII. Research, Statistics and Analysis
VIII. Third Party Information
IX. Privacy of the Individual
X. Business Affairs
XI. Premature Requests
XII. Legal Restrictions