Hong Kong medicine shops face clampdown
Hong Kong medicine shops face a major clampdown as government officials try to eliminate unscrupulous retailers.
To enhance consumer protection, an operation codenamed Golden Crusader is being conducted by the Unfair Trade Practice Investigation Group of Customs and Excise Department to detect unfair trade practices by unscrupulous medicine shops.
The first stage of the operation started in mid-August in various districts. Two medicine shops were found to have misled customers into buying goods priced at a catty but who were subsequently charged with a price at a tael or mace. Another four medicine shops were found to have passed off lookalike goods as products of a popular brand. The total value of the goods, maca and fish maw, was $116,048, which was 16 times (priced at tael) and 160 times (priced at mace) the price expected by the consumers. A total of 475 boxes of lookalike medicinal goods, valued at $14,948, were seized. Eight male and one female staff of the medicine shops, aged between 25 and 54, were arrested.
The second stage will continue through the holidays in late September and early October. Customs officers will conduct patrols in popular tourist shopping areas to promote relevant messages to traders and tourists.
Under the Trade Descriptions Ordinance (TDO), a trader who engages in relation to a consumer in a commercial practice that omits or hides material information; provides material information in a manner that is unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely and as a result causes, or is likely to cause an average consumer to make a transactional decision that the consumer would not have made otherwise, commits an offence.
Moreover, trade descriptions can be applied by whatever means, including oral and written statements. Any person who in the course of any trade or business applies a false trade description to any goods commits an offence.
Under TDO, the maximum penalty upon conviction is a fine of $500,000 and imprisonment for five years.
The Acting Head of the Intellectual Property Investigation Bureau, Hui Wai-ming, reminded traders to abide by the law and consumers to purchase products from reputable shops. “Consumers should also be cautious about the unit price, and ask for more information, including the total price of the goods, before making a purchase decision. When buying medicinal products, consumers should know the packaging of the brands wanted and inspect the products thoroughly before purchase. Receipts should be kept for future reference,” he said.