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LCQ14: Cracking down on unfair trade practices

     Following is a written reply by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mrs Rita Lau, to a question by the Hon Paul Tse in the Legislative Council today (January 20):


     Some travel agents have relayed to me that certain airline companies solicit business by claiming in their advertisements that they offer air tickets at prices much lower than the normal market prices, so as to attract corporate clients of registered travel agents to buy air tickets directly from them, but in fact air tickets available at such prices are very few, and such practice might be misleading to customers, and the mutual trust between airline companies and travel agents has been undermined as a result.  Travel agents have pointed out that such business practice is both improper and against the principle of fair competition.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a)  of the existing measures or legislation to regulate the aforesaid business practice;

(b)  of the government departments with which the affected customers or travel agents may lodge their complaints about the aforesaid situation, and the procedure for them to do so; whether the authorities had received such complaints in the past three years; if they had, of the number of the complaints; and

(c)  whether it will formulate new policies and measures to curb the aforesaid business practice?

Reply :


     My reply to the three parts of the question is as follows:

(a)  Hong Kong adopts free and open economic policies, under which traders may set their own marketing strategies including the prices of goods or services they put up for sale and the quantities that are made available.  There is currently no legislation regulating the prices and quantities of goods and services put up for sale;

(b)  In the past three years, the Government has not received any complaint relating to the trade practice referred to in the question.  Consumers may lodge complaints with the Consumer Council, which will look into the complaints received, conduct mediation and assist both parties in settling disputes;

(c)  While upholding market freedom and fair competition, the Government also protects the legitimate interests of consumers.  We are very concerned about the unfair trade practices in the market, including the promotional tactic of advertising goods or services at very low prices with the ulterior motive of promoting other goods or services to consumers.  To strengthen protection for consumers, we are pressing ahead with the review of relevant legislation to tackle such unfair practices.  A swift and feasible means to deal with the problem is to amend the Trade Descriptions Ordinance to prohibit traders from advertising goods or services at bargain prices without having reasonable quantities of goods or services to meet foreseeable demand.   We plan to submit proposed legislative amendments to the relevant Panel of this Council to seek views from Members and the public.

     Enhancing consumer awareness through publicity and education is equally important as legislative regulation.  In this connection, we have launched different types of publicity campaigns through newspapers and the electronic media to raise consumers' awareness of unfair trade practices, including "bait and switch".  Before legislative amendments are introduced, we will continue to co-operate with the Consumer Council, the Police and other organisations (including major chambers of commerce, schools and the media) to alert consumers to the possible price differentials among retail channels and the importance of comparing prices at different retail points before making smart, informed consumption decisions based on their own needs.

Ends/Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Issued at HKT 15:57


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