Chinese herb sellers arrested

An undercover operation led to apprehension of deviant Chinese-herb sellers in the city on Saturday.

Hong Kong Customs arrested two salespersons of a ginseng and dried seafood shop, suspected of adopting unfair trade practices involving misleading omission, which might have contravened the Trade Descriptions Ordinance (TDO).

A Customs officer disguised as customer and conducted test-buy operation at a ginseng and dried seafood shop in Mong Kok. Two salespersons were suspected to have misled her to purchase one catty of dried American ginseng believing that the unit price was calculated per catty. After the American ginseng was sliced, the salespersons revealed that the goods were priced per tael. The charged amount was 16 times more than expected. Customs officers then arrested a 49-year-old woman and a 44-year-old man. Investigations are on-going and the arrested persons have been released on bail pending further investigation.

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 Hong Kong 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.

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

Members of the public may report suspected cases to Customs by calling the 24-hour hotline 2545 6182.

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