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  • 1996.10.15
  • Which of the 140 shampoo suits your hair best ?
  • Questions about washing hair
  • Terms of credit cards loaded in favour of casr issuers
  • Hong Kong needs fair trade legislations
  • "Lucrative" sales tactics by beauty salons
  • How to choose a laser printer ?
  • Rationale behind textbook revisions
  • Jump in supermarket prices despite new low in inflation
  • Compensation claimed against silicon breast implant
  • Safety of 4-wheeler raise concern in US
  • Facts on foot care
  • Price Survey on Residential Property in Sha Tin and Ma On Shan Districts 

The terms and conditions in use for locally-issued credit cards are lagging behind in consumer protection in comparison to the United States, Britain and Australia.

This was borne out in a Consumer Council survey on the terms and conditions commonly found in the standard form agreements between card issuers and their customers.

Often without a clear understanding of the implications of these provisions in the agreement, card holders have habitually signed for the acceptance of the cards and in so doing have agreed to be bound by these terms and conditions.

The survey followed a similar survey on credit card interest rates in April this year. In this survey, covering 18 card issuers in Hong Kong, the Council focused on the terms and conditions governing the use of credit cards and compared these provisions with those in the United States, Britain and Australia.

The survey found, with only a few exceptions, the terms and conditions to be invariably loaded in favour of the card issuers. In the event of a dispute over such matters as charges and payment, credit card users may find themselves at a disadvantageous position.

In the US, legislative control over the operation of credit cards is through the Regulation Z - Truth in Lending (1989), in the UK, the Consumer Credit Act (1974) and in Australia, the Australian Capital Territory Credit Act (1985).

But no similar law exists in Hong Kong for the protection of consumer interests, although there is now under consideration the introduction of a Code of Banking Practice. The Code is being drafted by a working group of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, Hong Kong Association of Banks and the Hong Kong Association of Restricted Licence Banks and Deposit-Taking Companies.

The survey showed that compared with countries such as the US, UK and Australia, there is clearly room for improvement in th einterest of consumers in Hong Kong.

The Consumer Council, in the light of the findings of the survey, has put forward the following recommendations to the working group to bring Hong Kong more in line with these countries:

  1. Disclosure of credit information prior to application
    • Issuers should inform consumers, prior to application, of the annualized percentage rate, all charges and fees arising out of using the card, finance charge and balance computation method, and grace period.
    • Such information should be displayed at a prominent location.
  2. Procedures in solving disputed items
    • The period for complaints over disputed amount should not be limited to, say, only 14 days from statement date but that it should be extended to be in line with the 6-year period under the Limitation Ordinance in Hong Kong.
    • Issuers should resolve the matter within 30 days (90 days, in case of overseas transactions).
    • Cardholders can withhold disputed amount; collection action is prohibited until the dispute is resolved; and adverse credit reports are prohibited as is the case in other countries.
  3. Liabilities of loss/theft before notifying card issuers
    • Only when issuers can prove cardholders have acted fraudulently or have been grossly negligent, should cardholders be liable for all the losses before notifying the issuers of the loss/theft, otherwise the liabilities borne by cardholders should subject to an upper limit.
    • Issuers should provide, in advance, adequate notice of the maximum liabilities and means of reporting the loss/theft.
  4. Offsetting balance provision
    • Issuers should state clearly under what conditions could the debt owed in credit card account be offset by cardholders' deposit in other account(s).
  5. Treatment of credit balance
    • Issuers should return the balance within 7 business days.
    • Issuers should not limit the period for request for refund to only a certain period, e.g. 3 months.
  6. Change of terms and conditions
    • Issuers should inform cardholders of any changes in terms and charges 30 days prior to the effective date of such changes.
    • Cardholders who do not accept the new changes can cancel the card before the effective date of such changes and get a pro-rata refund of annual fee paid.
  7. Renewal or cancellation
    • Issuers should furnish all relevant information e.g. renewal fee, all charges and fees, and computation method to cardholders 30 days prior to end of validity period of card.
    • In the case of automatic renewal, there should be a reasonable period during which the cardholders have the right to return the cards provided they have not been used in the meantime.
  8. Others
    • Cardholders' agreement should be written in plain language and printed in larger fonts.
    • Provisions concerning cardholders' liabilities and all types of charges should be printed in bold type.


The Consumer Council is also concerned over the present practice by card issuers in relying on a general consent obtained well in advance from customers to enable wide-ranging unspecified disclosure of all information to a wide class of persons.

For card issuers to be in line with the "Personal (Data) Privacy Ordinance" and "Unconscionable Contracts Ordinance", the Council has suggested that they should :

  1. obtain an appropriate undertaking from a third party to treat information disclosed to it as confidential and not to freely disclose the same;
  2. require a third party to undertake further that it will only use the information for a limited purpose and confirm the issuer's accountability in writing to customers;
  3. only collection data for a lawful purpose directly related to a function or activity of the issuer which data should only be adequate but not excessive; and
  4. instead of relying on any all-encompassing general consent to any change of purpose, seek and obtain the customers' affirmative consent to each change of purpose, as and when the change is required, having given the customers a clear idea of what is proposed.

Findings of the survey were published today in the 240th issue of the Council's monthly magazine 'CHOICE'.

The choice of a shampoo is seemingly unlimited with a baffling diversity of products to suit the individual needs and whims.

In this October issue of 'CHOICE' is a comprehensive test report on a total of 140 models of shampoo comprising: "plain", "anti-dandruff", "2 in 1", "2 in 1anti-dandruff", "children's/baby's" and "Chinese herbs" samples.

Prices of the samples varied quite considerably with the anti-dandruff type being the most extensive at an average of $18.7 per 100 ml and the Chinese herbs the least costly at $9.2 per 100 ml.

Items investigated in the test include: pH, viscosity, foaming properties, contaminants (lead, arsenic, chromium, mercury) and selenium sulphide (much promoted as an effective anti-dandruff ingredient).

The test found the samples to be, by and large, in compliance with their claims, safety limits and regulations.

However, 6 samples labelled anti-dandruff which is a medicinal claim, were found without any registration number on their packages.

As preparation bearing this claim is considered a pharmaceutical product, it is subject to registration control under the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance.

The Consumer Council has referred these cases to the Department of Health for further action.

It was also found that only a few of the anti-dandruff samples carried warning statements such as "avoid contact with the eyes" and "external use only" in Chinese. Most do not have any warning while others have it in English only.

The report also offers information on a host of general public misconceptions and myths concerning the type of shampoo that will most suit one's needs and requirements.

The promise of beauty almost never fails to allure its victims.

At least three consumers learned their lesson the hard way - after some $125,000 poorer and a lot of anguish.

In this 240 issue of 'CHOICE' are highlighted their complaints against beauty salons.

Case No. 1

The complainant went for facial massage and agreed on a sum of $100,000 for a total of 11 visits. But only after one visit, she was shocked to find a few more wrinkles appearing around the eyes. She also developed skin allurgy in the face. She refused to continue with the treatment and demanded a refund which the beauty salon repeatedly turned down.

Case No. 2

The complainant joined a slimming programme at $16,000 for a duration of one month. The beauty salon staff promised it would take only 5 lessons to reduce 10 pounds and a few inches around the waist. Or the whole amount would be fully refunded. After half-way through the programme, the complainant was disappointed with the result. She wanted to quit but was persuaded to complete the whole programme. But still no visible slimming result afterwards. She asked for the promised refund but was rejected on the ground that she had not strictly followed the diet of the beauty salon.

Case No. 3

The complainant originally joined an 8-day "computer slimming" course at $800 but was persuaded to switch to lipo-suction treatment which cost $5,000. While the complainant was undergoing the treatment, she was approached to buy bath lotion ($950), slimming lotion ($2,500) skin tightening lotion ($900). She declined but was prevented from leaving the premises as the staff had hid the clothes from her. Only after the complainant had agreed to the purchase was she returned her clothes to wear.

In the first eight months of this year, the Consumer Council has received a total of 30 complaints against beauty salons. Most were related to unscrupulous sales practices such as described in the three complaints above.

Consumer complaints against beauty salons are in fact on the decline from 134 cases in 1993, to 89 in 1994, and 74 in 1995.

A major difficulty in resolving these complaints is that some complainants were without any receipt for proof or that some receipts were written ambiguously.

Consumers are advised to remember to always ask for a receipt that clearly lists out the scope of service, product items and refund provision.

Consumers should also consult registered medical doctors for advice on the effectiveness of any treatment programme offered by beauty salons. Do not be easily taken by beauty salon advertising. The simple best slimming method remains: a controlled balanced diet and regular exercise.

Other highlights in this October issue of 'CHOICE' include :

  • Laser and LED Printers
    If printing speed is your major consideration in the choice of a laser or LED printer, you are strongly urged to consult this test report on 8 different models of this product. According to the report, some manufacturers are making rather optimistic claim on the printing speed as the actual performance is much lower for certain models. Consumers are also advised to pay special attention to the running cost as it varies significantly for different models ranging from $4.2 to $35.2 per 100 pages (according to our calculation).
  • Survey on Revised Textbooks
  • Jump in Supermarket Prices Despite New Low in Inflation
  • Price Survey on Residential Property in Sha Tin and Ma On Shan Districts