CHOICE # 233

15 March 1996
Email this page
  • Test report on home fax machines
  • Survey on the mobile phone promotional schemes
  • A severe warning on buying unsafe folding tables
  • This year's World Consumer Rights Day is "Safe Food for All".
  • Facts of alcoholism
  • How safe is the 15A electrical adaptor ?
  • Transaction prices and supply of residential flats in Chai Wan

The Consumer Council today issued a severe warning to parents with young children to avoid buying unsafe folding tables for use at home. 

Small folding tables hold a certain fatal attraction for young children. At least 8young children lost their lives in the deadly grip of the folding legs of the table. 

These fatalities were recorded during the period 1984 to 1989. But just 2 weeks ago, a baby girl, aged 1K years, was reported to be involved in an accident in which she was trapped by a folding table and had to be rescued by firemen. 

In the fatalities, the victims, invariably aged from 3 to 9 years, were found dead after being wedged in the iron bar legs of the folding tables which had been turned upside-down. 

The children had crawled into the legs of the overturned folding table while playing. The legs folded up on impact, trapping and subsequently strangulating the victims. 

Once trapped by the table, it would be quite impossible for the child to extricate by himself from the grip of the iron bars as the bars would only get tighter with each force of struggle. 

Common in all these tragedies, the children were left alone or unattended at home at the time of the accidents. Their lives would certainly have been saved if adults were around to give a helping hand to free them from the deadly grip of the folding tables. 

The Consumer Council has long been concerned with the safety of folding tables and has issued guidelines and suggestions for manufacturers to improve the design of their products. 

Folding tables are commonly found in many homes here because of their extreme economy in the use of space. Primarily designed for such purpose as dining and mahjong, they are fast being marketed for use by children for such school chores as homework and drawing. 

Such folding tables are smaller, lighter and usually attractively designed with bright colours to appeal to children. 

Folding tables are now under the control of the Consumer Goods Safety Ordinance which came into operation last October. Under the ordinance, it is an offence for any person to manufacture, import or supply consumer goods which fail to comply with the general safety requirements or any prescribed safety standards. 

In the first test of folding tables since the enforcement of the new ordinance, the Consumer Council has focused on the small folding tables favoured by young children. 

The samples consisted of 4 tables with safety locking device and 1 without such device to prevent accidental folding up of the table. Since there is no international standard for folding tables, the products must at least satisfy the general safety requirements stipulated in the ordinance. 

The results of this latest test on folding tables - published in this March (233) issue of the Council's monthly magazine 'CHOICE' - showed that the safety of small folding tables was still far from entirely satisfactory. 

Of the 4 samples with locking device, only the spring type model can engage automatically, preventing accidental folding up of the table. The other 3 models - the hook, the screw and the metal stopper types - had to be locked manually. 

It is essential that the locking device should be able to engage automatically in case the users forget to lock the device. This is particularly true of young children who may not recognise the importance of the locking device or simply cannot properly operate the device. 

Other failures include: when the tables were turned upside down, the hook type locking device was released due to force of centre of gravity thus rendering the device no longer able to hold the table legs in position. 

The test found 2 locking devices to be easily removed without the use of tools while 1to shift to other position thus losing the function it was intended for. 

Further, 3 tables were found to overturn when a vertical force was applied at the centre of the top of the rectangular shaped table along the short side. Never, therefore, use the folding table as a stepping stool. 

One sample actually carried a warning notice i.e. not to overturn the table for use as a toy. This is to be encouraged but the message in this sample was not sufficiently clear to alert parents to the potential hazard of misuse. 

The Consumer Council has informed the Customs and Excise Department, responsible for the enforcement of the ordinance, of the test findings. 

The Department has carried out a territory wide spot check exercise on small folding tables and sent samples for tests by the Government Laboratory. Similar test results were produced: all of the 4 test samples (2 without any locking device, 1 with hook type and 1with screw type devices) failed to have an effective locking device. 

A series of raids in the past 3 months have resulted in the seizure of 371 small folding tables valued at $26,000. 

In the report is also included comprehensive guidance on the choice of a reasonably safe small folding table. Parents are strongly advised to consult the report and to ensure the safety of small folding tables for use by their young children. 

Competition in the mobile phone service market has driven prices down - at a rate much to the delight and chagrin of consumer. 

In a bid to compete for customers and market share, mobile phone service operators are offering a host of price-slashing packages in the market. 

Consumers are inundated with a plethora of advertising claims. But no sooner has one package been promoted a new package is on the offer. 

To assist consumers in their choice of the package that will best suit their own individual needs, the Consumer Council has conducted a survey on the various promotional schemes available in the market. 

The results of survey, published in this March issue of "CHOICE"', revealed considerable variations in the benefits offered by different mobile phone service operators. 

According to the survey, these packages contained one or more of the following main components: 

  • acquire the service at a preferential price 
  • swap from analog to digital network at a preferential price free talking time plan 
  • peak-use/non-peak-use service charge package 

Of the various service packages sampled, the cheapest 650-minute package costs just$1.54 per minute on average for heavy user while the lowest service charge for a100-minute or less-than-100-minute plan ranges from $3.75 to $5 per minute on average.

For consumers who have to make round-the-clock calls, they may wish to consider a service with the longest non-peak-use period spanning from 6:00p.m. to 9:00a.m. 

For the money-minded, the cheapest non-peak-use service package costs $1 per minute, while the package with the lowest peak-use service charges $1.6 per minute. 

Consumers are advised to familiarise themselves with the different types of mobile phones and networks before they decide to invest in the use of mobile phone service. 

They should think twice before acquiring or swapping for a mobile phone at preferential rate because making an exit before the contract ends might incur a penalty given the consumers have already handed in the prepaid fees and deposits. Consumers should also read thoroughly the service charges in different time slots. 

Mobile phones are not the only communications equipment with prices in a downward trend. Prices of fax machines have also dropped significantly. 

No longer are they used exclusively in the office but have increasingly found their way into the home as prices become more affordable at only around 1,600 for some models. 

To evaluate the performance of this new generation of home fax machines, the Consumer Council has tested 15 small sized fax machines. 

Most of the samples are designed with an array of features and all print messages on special heat sensitive paper. 

The results of the test showed that the machines do vary significantly from one to another and in particular in respect of transmission speed and print image quality. 

Consumers are advised to choose carefully according to their own particular needs and application. For instance, a fast machine is recommended if they have to send fax overseas frequently. 

Advice is also given in the report on the different methods for connecting fax machine to phone line. Different methods have their own advantages and disadvantages. 

March 15 is the World Consumer Rights Day. 

The theme chosen for this year's World Consumer Rights Day is "Safe Food for All". 

This coincides with the Food and Agriculture Organisation's (FAG) World Food Summit to be held in Rome in November this year. 

Locally, serious concern has been raised in such areas: pesticide contaminants in vegetables, seafood contamination by heavy metals and sour milk issues. 

Globally, it is noted that food marketing is targeting increasingly towards children, especially those for snacks and sweet treats. This may cause adverse effects on the nutritive value of their diet affecting childhood development. Also, food advertisements in magazines or other publications may be falsely disguised as editorial reporting. 

Government as well as food manufacturers are urged to play an important role in ensuring food safety, appropriate quality control and food labeling.