Message from the Chief Executive
We live in an era of unprecedented consumer issues with innovative products and services as well as new sales practices brought on by e-commerce and online shopping, budget air travel, organic foods, impacting on consumer privacy and sustainable consumption as never before – all these are important issues of concern to every one of us as consumer. It is imperative that, as in over 4 decades, the Consumer Council must remain vigilant, staying close to the vicissitudes and needs of the consumer and the marketplace while forging ahead with the changing times and demands.
Protection of consumers’ rights and interests under globalization calls for a heightened awareness of the latest related developments in our neighboring regions and the international community. Food and edible oil, domestic electrical appliances, communications gadgets, and even a host of other goods and services such as daily household products are all inevitably affected by the major global manufacturers and suppliers. The Consumer Council must therefore strive for stronger international cooperation that will help create added value, amidst an ever perplexed and complex global trading environment, for the ultimate benefits of consumers.
With the very close ties between Hong Kong and the Mainland, the number of visitors totaling 60.84 million last year, with 47 million from the Mainland alone, any lapses in its product quality or sales practices will undoubtedly tarnish Hong Kong’s reputation as a shopping paradise and tourist destination. In the interests of the local and visiting consumers alike, the Consumer Council is duty-bound and committed to upholding the standard of sales practices and the customer services in Hong Kong.
Since its inception, the Council has spared no efforts to insist on product safety and price transparency. Apart from releasing independent product testing reports, the Council persistently encourages and drives for information transparency and consumer education, in order to educate the consumers and equip them with the right skills and knowledge necessary for making rational consumer choice and to empower themselves for self-protection.
For total consumer protection, an important mission of the Council is to foster constructive discussions in the development of consumer protection policies. To this end, the Council will seek to engage in partnership with the different trade bodies to formulate Codes of Practice beneficial to consumers towards a fair and transparent marketplace. We sincerely hope that the business community could appreciate and support the rationale and benefits of such self-regulation in raising service quality, eliminating entrenched undesirable trading practices and ultimately increasing consumers’ confidence.
However, if in the event of a failure in self-regulation or of an unreasonable trade practice becoming prevalent internationally, the Council will not hesitate to advocate for legislation to bring in statutory legal consumer protection. In recent years, for instance, we have proposed to the government to give priority to consumers as unsecured creditors under the corporate insolvency law. To redress the problems arising from undesirable sales practices and prepayment consumption, we have been actively lobbying for the statutory provision of a “cooling-off period” in consumer transactions. This will accord the prominence and attention the issue deserves and, furthermore, offer the legal framework by which traders can follow with certainty.
In the future, the publicity and information dissemination strategy of the Council has to be adjusted to meet the demand of an ageing population, on the one hand, and the aspirations of the growing young middle-class families, on the other. In the former, a potentially vast market may entice the less than scrupulous traders to entrap the hapless elderly consumers, inflicting not only financial loss but also health hazards to their victims. Accordingly, we are gearing up our publicity promotional efforts to raise consumer awareness and safeguards in this area. In the case of the latter, the young middle-class are under considerable pressure in their daily livelihood, having at the same time searching for a better quality of living. No doubt we will be devoting greater efforts in providing more timely information and advice that will help them make wise consumer choice.
Handling consumer complaints is a core function of the Consumer Council, resulting in the reconciliation and settlement of so many disputes over the years between the consumers and the traders in a win-win manner. Consumer complaints are also a valuable source of information that leads subsequently to the release of consumer advisory and alerts.
In this age of demanding for speed and engagement through different channels, our communication with the consumer obviously has to be able to keep up with the pace of changes, harnessing our overall information efforts into a concerted drive both in breadth and in depth. The CHOICE monthly publication, as an independent and impartial information platform, will undergo further enhancement to maximize its reach and information dissemination efficiency. We also plan to leverage social media to interact with members of the public to canvass their views and opinions; and to step up our district outreach to access various strata of the public face-to-face so as to effectively broaden and deepen our information reach and access to anyone in need of such service.
Looking ahead, the advocacy of sustainable consumption will be a priority of the Council with special emphasis on educating consumer the concept of responsible consumption and its impact on natural resources conservation on the earth. By integrating the concepts of rational consumption with environmental protection, it is our hope to truly bring Hong Kong at the forefront of sustainable development.