Mong Kok ginseng retailer arrested

Hong Kong Customs have arrested a Mong Kok ginseng retailer suspected of adopting unfair trade practices in an ongoing clampdown on overcharging and bullying.

This week’s arrest involved the alleged “misleading omission” in the sale of dried American ginseng, which might have contravened the Trade Descriptions Ordinance (TDO).

Customs had earlier received a complaint alleging that the salesperson of a ginseng and dried seafood shop in Mong Kok had misled a visitor to believe that one catty of dried American ginseng was sold at $700 per catty. The salesperson eventually charged the visitor $11,200 and revealed the goods were valued at $700 per tael. The amount paid was 16 times what the visitor expected. Upon initial investigation, Customs officers arrested a man yesterday.

“Investigation into the case is ongoing and the arrested man has been released on bail pending further investigation,” a Customs official said in a statement.

Under the TDO, a trader who engages in relation to a consumer in a commercial practice that omits or hides material information or 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. The maximum penalty upon conviction is a fine of $500,000 and imprisonment for five years.

Customs reminded retailers to abide by the law – and advised 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.

“Customs will closely monitor suspected violations of the TDO and will continue to crack down on unscrupulous traders for protection of consumer rights,” the spokesman said.

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