LCQ15: Monitoring online purchases
Following is a written reply by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, to a question by the Hon Cheung Hok-ming in the Legislative Council today (January 11):
Online purchases have become increasingly popular and quite a number of shopping web sites are set up outside Hong Kong. Regarding the protection afforded to consumers who make online purchases, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the number of complaints involving online purchases received by the Government in the past two years; and among them, the number of those involving offshore shopping web sites;
(b) of the measures currently in place to monitor the sale of products which do not meet the standards stipulated in the laws of Hong Kong to members of the public in Hong Kong through shopping web sites; and
(c) in the long run, whether it will consider enacting legislation dedicated to monitoring online trades so as to protect consumers?
My reply to the various parts of the question is as follows:
(a) In 2010 and 2011, the Customs and Excise Department (C&ED) received 22 complaints about products purchased online, 13 of which involved websites outside Hong Kong's jurisdiction.
(b) At present, the Consumer Goods Safety Ordinance (Cap. 456) and the Toys and Children's Products Safety Ordinance (Cap. 424) regulate the safety of products available in the market in Hong Kong. Under these two Ordinances, toys, specified children's products and other general consumer goods manufactured or supplied in Hong Kong, or imported into Hong Kong, must comply with the safety requirements or standards specified by the Ordinances. Subject to cases falling within Hong Kong's jurisdiction, the two Ordinances apply to sale activities conducted physically and online.
C&ED is responsible for enforcing the above two Ordinances. It will take appropriate action (including purchasing specimens for safety tests) when it comes to its attention that products available in Hong Kong are suspected to be unsafe. If any products fail to meet the safety requirements or standards specified by the Ordinances, C&ED will warn or prosecute suppliers.
I wish to point out that consumer transactions conducted outside Hong Kong's jurisdiction are subject to risk. For instance, the extent of protection accorded to consumers may be different from Hong Kong, and Hong Kong's enforcement agencies do not have authority over activities outside Hong Kong's jurisdiction.
(c) Consumer protection legislation in Hong Kong applies to sale activities conducted physically and online. We do not consider it necessary to enact legislation specifically for monitoring online trade. Of course, Hong Kong legislation in general does not regulate conduct outside Hong Kong.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012