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  • 2020.04
  • Issue 522

Buying Anti-epidemic Items through Social Media Platforms Can be Risky. Be Rational to Prevent Potential Losses

Buying Anti-epidemic Items through Social Media Platforms Can be Risky. Be Rational to Prevent Potential Losses

Amid a new wave of epidemic outbreak, a large number of posts promoting or selling anti-epidemic items have emerged on media social platforms and many consumers have made prepayments to purchase these items.  In the first 3 months of this year, the Consumer Council (or the “Council”) has received over 760 complaints relating to these transactions, including late deliveries and refund disputes. Some consumers complained that the vendors disappeared after receiving payments, and they were helpless in retrieving their money.  Let´s go through this article to learn more and stay alert. 



The epidemic has brought opportunities to certain businesses, but the surge in demand can be a challenge for some business operators. Small-scale traders, in particular, should evaluate their manpower and stability of supplies before accepting a large number of orders, and should also take into consideration issues such as logistics, customer enquiries and refund mechanisms, etc.  If vendors cannot deliver the goods on time and fail to make a timely response, consumers will inevitably feel dissatisfied. On the subject of “handling fees” in the refund process, it depends on the actual terms and conditions stipulated at the time of the transaction. However, passing transaction fees to the customers is not a desirable approach.


Selling on social media platforms is easy with low operating costs, so nowadays everyone can become a vendor.  However, some scammers may pose as vendors and set up social media accounts without the actual intention of selling goods, and will disappear after receiving the payments. Such acts may constitute criminal offences such as “fraud” or “deception”. Depending on the actual situation, the Consumer Council will refer such cases to the Police for investigation. On the other hand, if a vendor does not have reasonable grounds to believe that the goods can be delivered within the specified time when accepting a payment, it may have committed an offence of “wrongly accepting payment”.  Even if the goods are sold via social media platforms, vendors must still make sure that statements or representations made on the products and sales are clear and accurate. Otherwise, they may violate the Trade Descriptions Ordinance. Depending on the circumstances, the Consumer Council may refer certain cases to the Customs and Excise Department for further investigation.  


The Police urges the public to choose reliable and reputable online merchants. The Consumer Council also reminds consumers to check whether the vendors’ business addresses and contact details are disclosed on the social media platforms. In the event of disputes, payments made between personal accounts can be difficult to trace.  Such cases would most likely be handed over to law enforcement departments for further investigation and retrieval of money can be difficult.