The New “Code of Practice of the Jewellery Retail Industry”Goes Beyond Legislative Requirements for the Betterment of Consumer Protection
The Consumer Council, together with the two major Jewellery Associations, (the Hong Kong Jewelers’ & Goldsmiths’ Association and the Kowloon Pearls, Precious Stone, Jade, Gold and Silver Ornament Merchants Association), launched “the Code of Practice of the Jewellery Retail Industry” (Code of Practice) today. Underpinning the set of wide-ranging and effective guidelines, the Code of Practice fosters self-regulation and promotes standards beyond existing legislative requirements to raise service standards and increase value to the consumers. The measures include the establishment of an independent review committee to handle consumer complaints, and the introduction of after sales protection for online shoppers.
In July 2015, the Council signed a collaborative agreement with the two major Jewellery Associations, and a Working Group on the Code of Practice of the Jewellery Retail Industry was subsequently established. Over many rounds of meetings and consultation with stakeholder groups, including industry players and government departments, a code of good trade practices and operational guidelines was devised.
The Code of Practice consists of 6 operational areas of the jewellery retail industry, namely Product Quality Assurance, Advertising and Promotion, Customer Service, Intellectual Property Rights, Fair Competition, and Online Retail. To oversee implementation of the Code of Practice, an independent Complaints Review Committee has been formed to monitor compliance of companies subscribed to the Code and to set up mechanisms for handling consumer complaints. To strengthen committee’s independence, members of the Review Committee encompass industry and non-industry representatives are on an equal basis, and the former legislator Mr. Vincent Fang Kang, GBS, SBS, JP, will be the first president of the Committee.
A number of guidelines in the Code of Practice are more stringent than existing legislative requirements. Apart from the establishment of an independent complaints-handling mechanism, the Code requires the industry to offer clear after-sale protection services for online shoppers, training for front-line employees, to ensure they obtain sufficient professional knowledge to sell, and formulation of basic principles of sales contracts, for reference by the industry. Moreover, in order to support sustainability, the new Code calls for the use of environmentally friendly designs, materials and packaging. These measures signify a new milestone of the jewellery industry in raising its service quality, as well as in response to consumers’ concerns over the environment.
Speaking at the launch ceremony, the Council’s Chairman, Professor Wong Yuk-shan, BBS, JP, said, “The Code of Practice not only offers distinct and professional operational guidelines for the jewellery retail industry, it also encourages consumers to patron traders that are willing to embrace more stringent self-regulation and participate in the Code. While shopping, consumers may fully understand the levels of service and their rights, thus promoting public confidence in the jewellery retail industry in Hong Kong.”
In his address, the guest of honour, Mr. Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, President of the Legislative Council GBS, MBE, JP, said, “The Code of Practice co-launched by the Consumer Council and the jewellery industry, is another good example, proving to different industries that establishing a Code of Practice will not weaker members’ interests. On the contrary, the benefits of introducing a set of wide-ranging and timely guidelines will surely outweigh any adverse effects, for both traders and consumers”.
Chairman of the Hong Kong Jewellers’ & Goldsmiths’ Association Mr. Wong Siu-kee expressed gratitude to the Council for its every effort and said, “Apart from its professional advice, the Council contributed greatly by investing in manpower and other resources. After rounds of meetings, consultation and workshops over the past 2 years, content of the Code of Practice has at last been finalised and comes to fruition.”
Mr. Lau Hak-bun, Chairman of the Kowloon Pearls, Precious Stone, Jade, Gold and Silver Ornament Merchants Association, stated, “In early 2015, the two Jewellery Associations considered the long-standing Code of Practices had fallen short of changing the business environment, and it could possibly violate the Competition Ordinance. Therefore, we approached the Council and requested assistance in developing a new Code of Practice, so as to uplift the industry’s image and public confidence.”
The Council and the two Jewellery Associations will review, periodically, content of the Code of Practice, the level of compliance among industry operators, as well as effectiveness of the Complaints Review Committee. On a voluntary basis, members of the two major Jewellery Associations are encouraged to subscribe to the Code, it is hopeful that 60% of the association members will adopt the Code over the next 3 years. The Council’s Chairman, Professor Wong Yuk-shan, expressed the hope that implementation of the Code of Practice of Jewellry Retail Industry, will lead other industries to follow suit, raising service standards and strengthening consumer protection.