Skip to main content

Foods & Entertainment Services Top 2022 Complaints Internet Shopping Complaints Exceed 10,000 Consumer Disputes on Travel and All Aspects of Daily Life Reveal New Consumption Patterns in Society

  • 2023.02.06

As 2022 marks the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumption modes and related complaints continue to evolve accordingly. The overall number of complaints received by the Consumer Council last year rebounded from the slight downward trend in 2021 to a total of 30,764 cases, a 12% year-on-year (YoY) increase.

To accurately reflect consumer complaints lodged by local consumers in Hong Kong, last year’s analysis excluded complaints from Mainland consumers against Mainland internet shopping platforms registered as businesses in Hong Kong but operate primarily outside the territory. Overall, the Council received 28,338 complaints in 2022, up 7% from the 26,506 cases in 2021, involving an amount of over $1 billion ($1,069,460,509). Last year, 54% of complaints were related to “Services” and 46% related to “Goods”, about the same ratio as in the past.     

The pandemic has accelerated the prevalence of internet shopping and the resulting rapid emergence of consumption complaints across a wide range of consumer goods and services. Last year, there were over 10,000 consumer complaints about “Internet Shopping” (10,686 cases), a YoY increase of 73% and accounting for nearly 40% (38%) of total complaint cases, while the amount involved nearly doubled (92%) from the previous year, reaching over $36 million.

As the pandemic fluctuated, consumers continued to work and study at home early in the year, thereby increasing the time spent online. As such, complaints involving electrical appliances and telecommunications services continued to rank second and fourth in complaint numbers. In addition, complaints involving quarantine hotels and supply shortage of rapid antigen test (RAT) kits last year led to “Travel Matters” and “Medical & Health Devices” becoming the third and tenth highest consumer complaints categories respectively.

Foods & Entertainment Services Rose 3 Places to Top Complaint Category

Last year, consumer complaints involving “Foods & Entertainment Services” leapt from number 4 on the previous year's complaint list to number 1 with 3,128 cases recorded, a 43% YoY increase compared with the previous year (2,182 cases), a cause for much concern. Complaints related to “Late / Non-delivery / Loss” accounted for the most complaints (806 cases), a 144% spike over 2021, followed by “Price / Charges Disputes” (603 cases), and “Variation / Termination of Contract” (584 cases). Within this category, “Online Food Ordering Portals” accounted for the largest share of complaints (1,089 cases), constituting 35% of this category; followed by “Restaurants” (846 cases, 27%). Meanwhile, complaints relating to “Theme Parks” also saw a more than 4.5-fold increase (459%) last year to 324 cases.

Electrical Appliance Complaints Hit 6-year High at 2nd Place

Complaints about “Electrical Appliances” slipped from the top spot in 2021 to second place, with 2,916 cases received last year. However, compared to the previous year (2,512 cases), the number of complaints was still up 16%, a record high for the sixth consecutive year involving an amount of over $12 million. Complaints were mainly about traditional home appliances, with “Repair / Maintenance” (872 cases) and “Quality of Goods” (751 cases) being the highest, accounting for 56% of complaints. The top 3 most complained-about electrical appliances were the same as the previous year, which were air conditioners (435 cases), televisions (350 cases), and washers/dryers (296 cases). It is noteworthy that complaints involving air purifiers and dehumidifiers increased by over 1 and 4.5 times last year, accounting for 97 and 71 cases respectively. The Council urges manufacturers to improve the quality of their electrical appliances and strengthen repair and maintenance services in contribution to sustainable consumption.

Complaints About Quarantine Hotels Quadrupled Causing Travel Matters to Rebound to 3rd Place  

The tourism industry recovered gradually under the new normal of the pandemic, and related complaints surged by 111% to 2,573 cases last year, jumping from fifth to third place on the list, with a 74% rise in the amount involved to $17 million. Among this, the largest number of complaints was related to hotel bookings (1,093 cases), a surge of over 2.5 times (258%) compared to the previous year. The number of complaints related to airline tickets also increased by 63% to 986 cases.

To prevent imported cases of COVID-19, all arrivals from outside Hong Kong were mandated to book accommodation at designated hotels for quarantine. Complaints involving quarantine hotels rose by 4.7 times (469%) to 779 cases last year, of which “Price / Charges Disputes” (366 cases) and “Variation / Termination of Contract” (327 cases) were the top complaints, together accounting for nearly 90% of the cases. 2022 monthly figures fluctuated, with the least complaints received in February and March (14 cases) and the most cases recorded in August (137 cases) and December (173 cases). In August last year, the Government adjusted quarantine requirement for arrivals by relaxing the 7-day mandatory hotel stay to a “3+4” model, i.e. 3 days of compulsory hotel quarantine followed by 4 days of medical surveillance at home. Subsequently, some consumers lodged complaints about unsuccessful attempts to change the dates of stay in quarantine hotels. December complaint figures was related to hotels’ failure to issue refunds long after the Government’s total withdrawal of quarantine requirements for arrivals in September.

Besides, as staycations continue to be a popular pastime for Hong Kong people to relax under the pandemic, a total of 48 complaints were received, close to 2021 figures, of which most (20 cases) involved “Variation / Termination of Contract”.  The average amount involved increased by almost 40% from $1,260 in 2021 to $1,750 in 2022.

Telecommunications Ranked 4th Alongside Increased Demand for Internet Services

Despite falling numbers for 6 consecutive years, complaints relating to “Telecommunications Services” still ranked fourth with 2,140 cases recorded, a slight dip of 3%. More than 40% of the complaints involved mobile phones (907 cases) as the largest subcategory. The demand for internet services increased significantly during the pandemic, as consumers stayed home to work, conduct video conferences, attend classes, enjoy leisure and entertainment, and shop online, causing a corresponding 24% rise in related complaints since 2020, from 591 cases in 2020 to 733 cases last year. The nature of the complaints mainly involved “Price / Charges Disputes” with 633 cases, followed by “Variation / Termination of Contract” and “Quality of Services” with 605 and 494 complaint cases respectively.

Foods & Drinks Complaints Ranked 5th with over Half Involving Late Delivery and Other Issues

“Foods & Drinks” complaints also rose by 17% to 1,200 cases, with the majority of complaints involving “Vegetables & Fruits”, and “Bread & Cake”, with 136 and 130 complaint cases respectively. “Late / Non-delivery / Loss” of goods accounted for the most complaints (320 cases), up 53% from the previous year, which was related to the prevalence of internet shopping. Next in line was complaints about “Quality of Goods”, an annual increase by 34% to 266 cases.

Over 10,000 Internet Shopping Complaints Causes Concern

Amount Involved Nearly Doubled

The pandemic accelerated the development of internet shopping in Hong Kong, and related complaints increased by 73% to 10,686 cases, with the amount involved nearly doubled (92%) to over $36.36 million. Internet shopping complaints accounted for 38% of the total complaints in the year, higher than the previous year’s 23%. The biggest share of internet shopping complaints involved “Foods & Entertainment Services” (1,748 cases), followed by “Travel Matters” (1,611 cases) and “Electrical Appliances” (947 cases). These 3 categories were also the top 3 among consumer complaints last year, reflecting the disparity in the quality of internet shopping services and overhaul across all industries advisable. Among the complaints about “Foods & Entertainment Services” (3,128 cases), which topped last year’s overall list, over 55% (1,748 cases) were internet shopping complaints, and it remains to be seen whether the number will drop in 2023 due to the relaxation of anti-epidemic measures.

Overall Complaints / Ranking

Internet Shopping Complaints / Ranking

Foods & Entertainment Services

3,128 / 1st

1,748 / 1st

Travel Matters

2,573 / 3rd

1,611 / 2nd

Electrical Appliances

2,916 / 2nd

947 / 3rd

In terms of the nature of complaints, “Late / Non-delivery / Loss” accounted for the most cases (3,922), more than double (108%) of the previous year. Under the pandemic, consumers were relying more on internet shopping and home delivery services. The Council urges traders to improve logistics and delivery arrangements to ensure timely delivery of products to consumers, so as to reduce disputes arising from logistics problems.

Hidden Concerns in All Aspects of Daily Life

Complaints About Property Transaction, Quality and Management Should be Heeded

Among everyday consumption complaints received by the Council, the property category was not the highest in case numbers, but the amount involved was indeed the highest. Last year, the Council received 332 property-related complaints, down 11% from the previous year, yet the amount involved only dipped 3% to over $730 million, accounting for 69% of the total amount involved last year. The largest number of complaints were about material/defects (104 cases, +7%), property transactions (91 cases, +550%), and property management (51 cases, +16%), all of which were on the rise. On the other hand, complaints against overseas properties dropped by nearly 70% with 51 cases last year. The Council emphasises that home ownership is a major investment and expense for consumers, and will continue to monitor issues related to property transactions, management, and maintenance to ensure that consumers are adequately and reasonably protected.

Apart from housing, private vehicles for everyday commute is another expensive consumer product. Last year, the amount involved in complaints on “Automobile & Vehicles” exceeded $66 million, of which nearly $55 million was related to the purchase of new cars (231 cases), and 78%, i.e. 181 cases, were about electric vehicles (EVs), amounting to over $41 million. Of these, “Late / Non-delivery / Loss” accounted for the largest number (134 cases). With the rising popularity of EVs, related complaints increased exponentially over the past 3 years, from 22 cases in 2020 to 206 cases in 2022, an over eightfold spike, with an average amount of more than $220,000. In terms of the nature of complaints, “Late Delivery” accounted for the largest number at 135 cases, a 26-fold increase over the previous year, 65% of all complaints about EVs last year. The Council urges EV manufacturers and dealers to accurately estimate delivery times and improve maintenance service quality to protect their brand reputation and maintain consumer confidence in their products.

With multiple surges and ebbs of the pandemic, the public cut down dining out and became accustomed to ordering takeaway or groceries from online food delivery platforms. However, the number of consumer complaints also soared from 423 cases in 2020 to 1,253 cases[1] in 2022, an almost 2-fold increase, and the amount involved also expanded nearly 2.5 times to over $320,000. It is worth noting that the most used platforms accounted for nearly 99% of the complaints. Online food ordering is a new trend in recent years, bringing convenience to consumers in their daily lives, but controversies related to the industry are also incessant. The Council urges the industry to promptly improve its services to protect the rights of consumers.

In addition, the increasing popularity of apparel shopping online also led to increased complaints regarding “Clothing & Apparel”. The Council received 1,049 complaints last year, up 6% from the previous and ranking seventh on the list of consumer complaints, with over $4 million involved. The largest volume of complaints (459 cases) were about “Ready-made Clothing & Apparel”, followed by “Beddings” (189 cases), “Handbags” (184 cases), and “Shoes” (147 cases). As for the nature of complaints, “Quality of Goods” (300 cases) accounted for the most cases, followed  by “Late / Non-delivery / Loss” (266 cases), reflecting that the quality of goods and services available through online shopping vary greatly, and consumers should be careful when making purchases through online stores and social media platforms to avoid financial loss and wasted time.

Fitness, Beauty, Wedding Services Hardest Hit by Pandemic

Concern over Resurgence of Unscrupulous Sales Practices

The pandemic has hit the retail and service industries hard, and the Council received over 1,500 complaints each year in 2020 and 2021 due to shop closures. There were nearly 60% fewer cases in 2022, with 656 complaints and an involved amount of nearly $9 million. Almost half of these complaints were related to
“Recreation / Health Clubs” closures (320 cases) with the highest amount involved ($4.9 million), followed by “Beauty Services” closures (70 cases) and “Wedding Services” (51 cases).

Unscrupulous sales practices by black sheep in the health and beauty industries have long been a source of consumer woes, and last year’s complaints involving “Recreation / Health Clubs” (769 cases) and “Beauty Services” (1,082 cases) decreased by 12% and 51% respectively. However, complaints involving sales malpractices by “Beauty Services” still amounted to 287 cases, and similar complaints against “Recreation / Health Clubs” recorded 70 cases. Despite the downward trend, the public should remain vigilant as unethical traders may take advantage of the gradual recovery of the society and deploy unscrupulous sales practices to coerce or lure consumers into making high-value prepayments.

Complaints about RAT Kits Surged During the Peak of the Pandemic 

In 2020, as consumers scrambled to buy face masks at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, Consumer Council received nearly 4,500 complaints related to face masks due to the extreme supply shortage. Although the number of consumer complaints involving face masks dropped significantly to 289 by 2022, it was still the most complained-about medical supply. Last year, there were 287 complaints about RAT kits for COVID-19, about the same against face masks, with nearly 70% of the complaints (198 cases) related to “Late / Non-delivery / Loss” of goods. Last March, at the peak of the fifth wave of the pandemic, the number of complaints involving RAT kits also surged to an annual high of 196 cases. As supply resumed normal, complaints in May fell to 14 cases. Complaints involving “Medical & Health Devices” remained at number 10 on the 2022 consumer complaints list.

Review and Outlook

The Council Launched Search Tool to Assist RAT Purchase

As the pandemic fluctuated in early 2022, the Government endorsed RAT results as a tool for early diagnosis of COVID-19 infections in February, leading to a sharp hike in demand. The number of brands mushroomed in the market, making it difficult for consumers to choose a reliable and Government-approved test kit. In view of the situation, the Council swiftly developed a “Search Tool for Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) Approved for Use by Various Regions” in just 10 days to help consumers verify and purchase RAT products that meet specific requirements, covering lists of approved RAT kits by Hong Kong, the Mainland, the European Union, and the United States, while the lists of Macau, Singapore, and Australia were added soon after. The search tool was launched on 9 March last year on the designated “Together, We Fight the Virus” page on the Council’s official website. In just 11 weeks since its launch, the search tool clocked over 1 million visits, reflecting the high usage rate by consumers at this critical juncture in the fight against the pandemic.

Advocating Ethical Development of AI with a Forward-thinking Approach to Foster Consumer Rights in E-Commerce

For the very first time, the Council published a study report on the application of artificial intelligence (AI) in e-commerce in Hong Kong, titled “Fostering Consumer Trust – Ethical Artificial Intelligence in E-Commerce”. The findings showed that consumers need to be aware of how to better protect themselves in order to use the technology more comfortably and confidently. Hong Kong businesses face many challenges in the application of AI technology and should implement “responsible and ethical AI” as soon as possible, developing the best business strategies to seize opportunities as they arise. To further promote the initiative, the Council co-organised a hybrid webinar titled “AI &Consumer Experience” with a media organisation last October, which initiated avid stakeholder participation. The Council will continue to communicate with stakeholders in actualising the advocated initiatives.

Revamped Consumer Rights Reporting Awards Received Unequivocal Media Support

The Consumer Rights Reporting Awards (CRRA) entered its 22nd year in 2022 with a groundbreaking revamp, not only organised independently by the Council but also introducing various enhanced features including the debut of the Social Media Category, increased cash prize for each award, and piloting a public voting mechanism for 2 awards, namely the “News Photography Award” and the “Tertiary Student Journalism Award”, which attracted over 2,000 voters. The CRRA was also more in congruence with the paradigm shift towards social media journalism and contemporary mode of news dissemination with a new category “Best Use of Social Media in Consumer Advocacy”, encouraging holistic media coverage on consumer protection issues. A record-breaking total of 40 media organisations, social media platforms, and tertiary institutions submitted 311 entries for the Awards, with 8 media participating for the first time.

Launch of the Consumer Council’s WeChat Official Account

The Council's official WeChat public account was launched on 1 June last year to strengthen communication and interaction with WeChat users in the region, sharing a wealth of practical consumer information. The Council’s WeChat public account has 4 main highlights, including comprehensive consumer tips in the “Shopping Guide” section, seasonal consumer articles, “Case in Point” articles explaining consumer traps and complaint cases, and useful price comparison tools, all with the aim of empowering the public to be smarter consumers. The Council will continue to furnish accurate and reliable consumption information to consumers in both the Greater Bay Area and Hong Kong through the WeChat official account.

Multipronged Approach to Enhance Self-Protection Capacity of the Elderly

As Hong Kong’s population ages, it is crucial to strengthen the self-protection abilities of elderly consumers through education. Last year, the Council partnered with various social service organisations and elder academies to run 45 consumer rights seminars, which were either in person or online, educating over 900 senior citizens on consumer rights, responsibilities, and relevant protection legislation. In addition, the Council piloted the “Educator Scheme for Senior Citizens” (ESSC) in 2021, with 24 retirees and soon-to-be retirees with outstanding performance selected as “Senior Educators” after advanced training and assessment. They hosted around 30 consumer rights community talks for their fellow elderly and actively participated in related educational activities.


After 3 years of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hong Kong finally welcomed the good news of gradual, orderly, and comprehensive reopening of borders with the Mainland earlier this year, while virus prevention and social distancing measures have also been relaxed gradually. While anticipating post-pandemic recovery, the Council will stay vigilant in its consumer protection efforts, continuing to closely monitor market trends to safeguard consumers.

[1]   Includes 1,089 cases from the “Food & Entertainment Services” category (takeaways) and 164 cases from the “Foods & Drinks” category (ordering groceries)