Code on Access to Information of Consumer Council

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1. Introduction
1.1 The Code on Access to Information (the Code) provides a basic administrative framework for the provision of information by the Consumer Council (CC) to members of public with the objective of keeping the community well informed about CC, the services it provides and the basis for policies and directives that affect the individuals and the community as a whole.
1.2 The Code and its provisions are generally in line with the Code adopted by all government bureaux / departments in Dec 1996. The aim of the Code is to provide information as promptly and as helpfully as possible.
2. Provision of Information
2.1 Information to be published or made available routinely
2.1.1 CC will publish via its Annual Report and official website on the followings:-
  • Information and details of the Council
  • Information on services provided to the public
  • The performance pledges and targets
  • Updated statistics on Council’s work
2.2 Information to be provided on request
2.2.1 CC will also, on request, provide additional information relating to its policies, services, and other matters falling within its areas of responsibility, except for requests for information listed in the areas in Annex I which may be refused.
2.3 Information relating to consumer complaints
2.3.1 All complaint cases received and handled by CC should be graded as confidential. CC might consider providing complaint statistics recorded by the Council under particular product / service category, but further details on individual cases must not be disclosed.
2.3.2 Personal data of the complainant should be handled according to the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance (PDPO). The identity of the complainant will be kept confidential and must not be disclosed to other outside parties except with the expressed consent of the complainant or under the related law on prevention of crime, and other exemptions under s.58 of the PDPO.
2.3.3 If it is decided that a case should be referred to the Government departments or other regulatory bodies and agencies, prior consent from the complainant will be sought if his/her name and contact and other related information are to be transferred to the third party.
3. Procedures in handling public request on information
3.1 Access to Information Officer
The Senior Compliance Officer (SCO) of CC will be the designated staff responsible for handling and overseeing the application of the Code.
3.2 Requests for Information
3.2.1 Requests for information may be made orally or in writing.
3.2.2 Oral requests will usually suffice where the information sought can be provided readily and simply, for example by oral replies or provision of leaflets or standard forms. CC staff may, however, ask for an oral request to be confirmed in writing where necessary or appropriate.
3.2.3 Written requests may be made by letter or by the application form (Annex II), and should be addressed to SCO of CC.
3.3 Reponses to Requests for Information
3.3.1 Responses to requests for information will be given in a timely manner as stipulated in para 3.4 – Target Response Time.
3.3.2 Where a request, whether written or oral, cannot adequately be met by an oral reply or provision of a leaflet, standard form etc., the information may be given, subject to Annex I, by the following ways:-
  • providing a copy of the relevant record or part thereof
  • providing a transcript of the relevant record or part thereof
  • providing a summary of the relevant record or part thereof
3.3.3 The Code does not oblige CC to:-
  • acquire information not in its possession
  • create a record which does not exist
  • provide on request information which is already published, either free or at a charge

In these circumstances, an applicant for information will, where possible, be directed to the appropriate source of information.

3.3.4 However, if CC receives a written request for information which is held by other government departments / public bodies / regulatory bodies etc, it will transfer the request to that department / organization and so advise the applicant.
3.4 Target Response Time
3.4.1 Where possible, information will be made available within 10 calendar days after the receipt of a written request. If this is not possible, an interim reply should be provided in which case the timeframe will be extended to 21 calendar days from receipt of the request.
3.4.2 If a request is to be refused, the applicant will be so informed within the timeframe set out in para 3.4.1 above.
3.4.3 Response may be deferred beyond 21 calendar days only in exceptional circumstances, and explanation should be given to the application. Any deferral and extension necessary should be kept to a minimum and should not normally exceed a further 30 calendar days.
3.4.4 These targets may be extended if necessary to accommodate the third party procedures set out in para 7.1 – 7.3 below.
4. Procedures for Refusing to Disclose Information
4.1 When a request for information is to be refused or partially refused, the applicant concerned must be informed of:-
  • the reasons for refusal, quoting the relevant paragraph(s) in the annex of the Code on which the refusal is based;
  • the avenue of internal review if the applicant is not satisfied with CC’s decision; and
  • the option of lodging a complaint with the Ombudsman.
4.2 Paragraph 4.1 above also applies to cases in which there is good reason for CC to :-
  • provide a summary of records instead of a copy of the particular record requested; or
  • refuse to confirm or deny the existence of information (no reason for refusal to confirm or denial will be disclosed if the disclosure of which would serve to indicate whether the information is or was in existence)
5. Level of Decision Making
5.1 SCO will, in consultation with the subject officer responsible for the particular area of work covered by the request of information, decide on whether a particular request for information should be met.
5.2 Where the case is complex or a refusal to disclose all or part of the information is contemplated, the final decision will be made at the level of Chief Executive / Deputy Chief Executive (CE / DCE) of CC.
6. Internal Review Procedure
6.1 Any request for review should be considered by CE / DCE. The target response time mentioned in para 3.4 above should be adhered to in handling requests for review.
7. Third Party Information
7.1 Where information requested is held for, or was provided by, a third party under an explicit or implicit understanding that it would not be further disclosed, but such information could be disclosable under the Code, CC will try to invite the third party to consent to or make representations against disclosure if appropriate. The third party will be asked to respond within 30 calendar days or such reasonable longer period as he may be granted on request.
7.2 On receipt of consent from the third party, the information may be disclosed.
7.3 If the third party makes representations against disclosure, or fails to respond within the stipulated time, CC will not disclose the information requested as no consent was given by the third party.
8. Charges
8.1 Processing requests for information uses resources of CC and may therefore require payment for this kind of services. Any charges levied will reflect the cost of providing the information, and the information will not be released until the requisite payment has been made. CC will monitor and review the issue of charges as and when necessary.
9. Appeal for a review
9.1 Any person who believes that CC has failed to comply with any provision of the Code may ask CC to review the situation and lodge a complaint to the attention of the CE / DCE of CC. The target response time set out in para 3.4 above also apply to requests for review.
9.2 Any person who believes that CC has failed to properly apply any provision of the Code may also complain to the Ombudsman.
10. Monitoring and Review
10.1 The Code is subject to regular reviews as to ascertain its smooth implementation and identify areas of improvement if deemed necessary.

Information which may be refused (with reference to the Part 2 of Code on access to Information of the Government published in Feb 2009)

CC may refuse to disclose information, or may refuse to confirm or deny the existence of information, in the categories and for the reasons set out below, which will normally be referred to if a request is refused.
  1. External Affairs

    1. Information the disclosure of which would harm or prejudice the conduct of external affairs, or relations with other governments or with international organizations.
    2. Information received in confidence from and conveyed in confidence to other governments, courts in other jurisdictions, and international organizations.
  2. Law Enforcement, Legal Proceedings and Public Safety

    1. Information the disclosure of which would harm or prejudice the administration of justice, including the conduct of any trial and the enforcement or administration of the law.
    2. Information the disclosure of which would harm or prejudice the conduct or impartial adjudication of legal proceedings or any proceedings conducted or likely to be conducted by a tribunal or inquiry, whether or not such inquiry is public or the disclosure of the information has been or may be considered in any such proceedings.
    3. Information which relates to proceedings which have been completed, terminated or stayed, or which relates to investigations which resulted in or may have resulted in proceedings, whether any such proceedings are criminal or civil.
    4. Information which would be privileged from production in legal proceedings on the ground of legal professional privilege.
    5. Information the disclosure of which would harm or prejudice the prevention, investigation and detection of crime and offences, the apprehension or prosecution of offenders, or the security of any detention facility or prison.
    6. Information the disclosure of which would harm or prejudice the preservation of the peace, public safety or order, or the preservation of property.
    7. Information the disclosure of which might endanger the life or physical safety of any person, or identify the source of information or assistance given in confidence for security purposes, or for the enforcement or administration of the law.
  3. Management and Operation of the Public Service

    1. Information the disclosure of which would harm or prejudice negotiations, commercial or contractual activities, or the awarding of discretionary grants and ex-gratia payments by CC.
    2. Information the disclosure of which would harm or prejudice the competitive or financial position or the property interests of CC.
    3. Information the disclosure of which would harm or prejudice the proper and efficient conduct of the operations of CC.
    4. Information which could only be made available by unreasonable diversion of CC’s resources.
  4. Internal Discussion and Advice

    1. Papers prepared for, and records of meetings and deliberations of the Council and its Committees and working groups.
    2. Information the disclosure of which would inhibit the frankness and candour of discussion with CC, and advice given to the government and/or other outside bodies.
  5. Public Employment and Public Appointments

    1. Information which would harm or prejudice the management of the public service.
  6. Improper Gain or Advantage

    1. Information the disclosure of which could lead to improper gain or advantage.
  7. Research, Statistics and Analysis

    1. Information relating to incomplete analysis, research or statistics, where disclosure could be misleading or deprive CC of priority of publication.
    2. Information held only for preparing statistics or carrying out research, and which relates to individuals, companies or products which will not be identified in reports of that research, or in published statistics.
  8. Third Party Information

    1. Information held for, or provided by, a third party under an explicit or implicit understanding that it would not be further disclosed, such information may only be disclosed with the third party’s consent.
    2. Information provided in confidence by a third party if disclosure to the subject of the information would harm the physical or mental health of the subject or any other individual, or disclosure should only be made to the subject by an appropriate third party.
  9. Privacy of the Individual

    1. Information about any person other than to the subject of information, or other appropriate person, unless:-
      • Such disclosure is consistent with the purposes for which the information was collected, or
      • The subject of the information, or other appropriate person, has given consent to its disclosure, or
      • Disclosure is authorized by law.
  10. Business Affairs

    1. Information including commercial, financial, scientific or technical confidences, trade secrets or intellectual property the disclosure of which would harm the competitive or financial position of any person.
  11. Premature Requests

    1. Information which will soon be published, or the disclosure of which would be premature in relation to a planned announcement or publication.
  12. Legal Restrictions

    1. Information the disclosure of which would constitute:-
      • a contravention of any law which applies in Hong Kong, or
      • a breach of any obligation arising under common law or under any international agreement which applies to Hong Kong.


Application for Access to Information