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Improvement Needed for Careless and Responsibility-shirking Household Cleaning Services Pay Heed to Dispute Handling and Compensation Mechanism To Protect Rights and Interests

  • 2024.05.16

Households that require major cleaning after renovations, or those who do not employ foreign domestic helpers, may choose to use services provided by cleaning companies. However, the Consumer Council has from time to time received complaints about such services, which involved damaged properties found after the cleaning services were performed, furniture surfaces turning sticky after formaldehyde removal, and unsatisfactory results of deep cleaning services, etc. Consumers opt for household cleaning services primarily to avoid the hassle of managing household chores, but it would be very frustrating if the results or services are unsatisfactory, or even with household items being damaged. The Council urges the industry to exercise stringent control over service quality and strengthen staff training. They should always demonstrate professionalism in both service and attitude rather than attempting to shirk their responsibilities and provide substandard services, so as to minimise consumer disputes and build a good business reputation. Consumers should also carefully study dispute handling and compensation mechanisms of providers when choosing cleaning services, and pay heed to whether the terms and conditions are reasonable and meet their needs. Consumers who use long-term household cleaning services should pay constant attention to the condition of their homes, ensuring complaints to the providers can be lodged immediately in case damaged properties are noticed.

Case 1: Damaged Expensive Decorative Item
Service Provider May Have Concealed Fact and Denied Responsibility

The complainant had consistently engaged Provider A for part-time cleaning service. One day the complainant noticed traces of repair by glue on an expensive decorative item, but since the adhesion was not strong enough to hold the pieces in place, the damage was revealed. The complainant, who lived alone, thought that only the cleaning staff could have accidentally damaged the item and then attempted repair, but in its initial response to the complainant, Provider A insisted that the cleaning staff had neither touched nor cleaned the decorative item and therefore had no idea about the cause of the damage. The complainant was very dissatisfied with the response as it was in no way justified a staff who was specifically responsible for cleaning had never cleaned that particular item. Provider A later changed its narrative and said that the staff had indeed cleaned the decorative item but had not noticed any damage, and once signs of damage were found, an incident report was immediately filed.

The complainant, who considered Provider A’s statements inconsistent with suspicion of hiding the truth and refusing to acknowledge responsibility, lodged a complaint with the Council. Provider A replied that the cleaning staff had reported the incident in accordance with their procedures, adding that the complainant did not have sufficient evidence against the cleaning staff, and offered to refund a sum of $460 only as a gesture of goodwill. The case has not been resolved as the complainant insisted on rejecting the arrangement while the service provider refused to respond further.

Case 2: Furniture Surface Became Sticky After Formaldehyde Removal
Unsatisfactory Results Required Repeat Cleaning

The complainant arranged Provider B to carry out deep cleaning and formaldehyde removal after renovation at a new home. As the formaldehyde removal process would fill the flat with smoke, the staff suggested the complainant to leave the premises and promised to send him photos when the work was completed. The complainant went for an examination in the new home two days later and found that the surfaces of all furniture were very sticky, and thought that the cleaners might not have cleaned the apartment thoroughly after the formaldehyde removal process. The complainant reflected this to the service provider but no follow-up action was taken and was instead advised to clean it on her own, so the complainant lodged a complaint with the Council.

Provider B explained that due to the generation of aerosol particles during formaldehyde removal and the humid weather on the day of application, there was a possibility that the furniture might not have enough time to dry completely thus the surface might feel sticky. Provider B emphasised that the scope of their formaldehyde removal service did not include clean-up afterwards. Nevertheless, in appreciation that it was the complainant’s new home, Provider B offered free cleaning to the complainant to resolve the case.

Case 3: Late Arrival, Early Departure and Forgot to Bring Tools
Sloppy Work by Cleaner

The complainant purchased a 4-hour deep cleaning service from Online Platform C and paid an extra $70 for the cleaner to bring along a vacuum cleaner. However, the cleaner arrived late and left early, did not bring along the vacuum cleaner, and the quality of the cleaning service was very poor with stains and dust still noticeable everywhere. The complainant called the cleaner to express dissatisfaction, but the cleaner asked the complainant to take care of the problem on his own. After the Council’s intervention, Online Platform C admitted that the cleaner did forget to bring a vacuum cleaner and admitted that there was room for service improvement. Online Platform C offered to refund the additional “vacuum cleaner charge” and half of the “cleaning fees”, amounting to $463, to the complainant to resolve the case.

The engagement of household cleaning services aims at making the living environment tidier and more comfortable to live in. It is reasonable for consumers to expect a certain level of service quality. Therefore, service providers should rigorously monitor the service quality and enhance communication with consumers to build mutual trust and a good business reputation. Consumers should pay attention to the following when choosing household cleaning services:

  • Carefully compare the services and terms and conditions offered by different providers, paying particular attention to details such as whether it is necessary to provide cleaning supplies to cleaners, whether the scope of cleaning services includes specific items such as the dismantling and cleaning of range hoods, hanging lamps, chandeliers, ceiling lights, etc., as well as the arrangements for changing or cancelling of services;
  • Some providers may put in place a compensation mechanism for damages caused by cleaners to objects in the premises, but such mechanisms are generally subject to a compensation ceiling and may not be able to fully cover the losses suffered by consumers. Consumers should therefore carefully examine the dispute handling and compensation mechanisms of service providers and prudently safeguard valuable possessions;
  • Upon completion of cleaning, consumers should carefully inspect the work and confirm their satisfaction before allowing the cleaners to leave the premises. If dissatisfaction is raised afterwards, the service providers may not necessarily arrange free-of-charge follow-up services;
  • When purchasing formaldehyde removal services, consumers should enquire whether the service provider will test and report formaldehyde levels before and after the process, and pay special attention to whether clean-up afterwards is included in the scope of services.


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