Watchdog set up for Hong Kong jewellers

An independent review committee has been set up to monitor Hong Kong jewellers and ensure industry standards are maintained.

It has been established under the new Code of Practice of the Jewellery Retail Industry and will oversee compliance, handle consumer complaints, introduce protection for online shoppers and cover such aspects as product quality assurance, promotions and customer services.

Headed by former Liberal Party legislator Vincent Fang Kang, the committee will comprise jewellery-industry members and non-industry representatives. If the committee finds jewellers have breached the guidelines, it could oust them from professional associations or deliver other, as yet unspecified, punishments.

Brought about by the Consumer Council and two jewellers’ groups, the code of practice took effect on Monday.

Chairman Lau Hak-bun of the Kowloon Pearls, Precious Stone, Jade, Gold and Silver Ornament Merchants Association, one of the groups involved, says the previous code of practice had failed to keep up with the changing business environment. He hopes the new code will “uplift the industry’s image and public confidence”.

Of about 25,000 complaints to the Consumer Council last year, 272 involved the jewellery industry, mostly concerning poor sales practices and quality of goods. That was down from 398 in 2015, the year work began on the code.

Along with the two jewellery associations (the other being the Hong Kong Jewellers’ and Goldsmiths’ Association), the Consumer Council is hoping that 60 per cent of the industry, which has 550 association members, will adopt the code within three years, reports the South China Morning Post.

But without legal penalties for breaking the rules, sellers could ignore the code, rendering it ineffective.

Consumer Council CEO Gilly Wong Fung-han argues that new provisions in the code will strengthen consumer protection.

“Because of so much new legislation in place like the Trade Descriptions Ordinance, the Intellectual Property Ordinance and the Competition Ordinance, we can see that the industry has to comply with these regulations first,” she says. “Customer services and fair treatment to the consumers are very important, so we designed this code of practice to go beyond the regulatory side.”

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