Friday, 12 August 2011

Hong Kong Con 101: The Old Bait-and-Switcheroo

So the HKSAR Government wants Hong Kong to be Asia's World City, but it continues to drag its feet in helping to condemn unscrupulous tourist traps. Yet again, we hear from the Consumer Council about the numerous tourists duped by the camera shop salesmen (see press release here). The Consumer Council does its job in raising awareness, but the sad reality is that without any supporting legislation and prosecution powers it is a toothless organisation.

CAMERA CON SHOPS Beware these electronics shops (reference: Consumer Council news)

Somewhat unrelated: Who's Baiting Who?


Watchdog wants criminal action against store cheats (The Standard)
Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Consumer Council has renewed its call to make unscrupulous sales practices a criminal offense as its name-and-shame drive has apparently failed to stem such incidents, which have risen 10 percent over the past year.

The council received 272 complaints in the first seven months of the year relating to misleading sales tactics adopted by shops selling digital electronic products.

There were 143 complaints against two shops in Tsim Sha Tsui, from January last year until the present - Modern Digital and Sunshine City - which involved a sum of over HK$1.6 million.

Council chief executive Connie Lau Yin-hing said the government should broaden the Trade Description Ordinance to allow unscrupulous sellers to be criminally charged.

Modern Digital is alleged to have sold a Zhongshan couple a camera without proper documents and functions.

The man, surnamed Luo, said he paid HK$6,500 for a Canon camera on Monday.

On returning to his hotel he found there was neither an instruction manual nor a guarantee certificate.

It also did not have a video-taking function which the salesman claimed.

Luo went to another shop in Mong Kok yesterday to inquire about his camera and was told it may be a parallel import worth only HK$3,000.

He later received a full refund after a salesman, surnamed Fung, put it down to a misunderstanding.


Camera con must stop, says watchdog (SCMP; paywall)
Consumer Council wants law change criminalising bait-and-switch sales tactic tabled to Legco soon, and names two Tsim Sha Tsui shops that practise it
Ada Lee
Aug 10, 2011

The Consumer Council wants the trade descriptions law changed quickly to outlaw unscrupulous sales practices such as the bait-and-switch tactic and other ruses it says two Tsim Sha Tsui camera shops use.

The council said yesterday that Modern Digital and Sunshine City, both on Nathan Road, were alleged to have cheated customers out of HK$1.6 million since the beginning of last year. It has received 95 complaints against Modern Digital and 48 against Sunshine City in that period. All were from tourists.

It said the shops would press their customers to pay before checking their purchase and then would say the product they wanted was out of stock and talk them into buying a more expensive one. They would also sell second-hand products as new ones and older models as the latest ones.

Council chief executive Connie Lau Yin-hing said the watchdog hoped the government would soon submit to Legco delayed legislation to amend the Trade Descriptions Ordinance. "Then these sales tactics will be criminalised and the consumers can be better protected," Lau said.

The government had been expected to submit to the Legislative Council an amendment to regulate misleading claims and prepayment packages that fail to meet buyers' expectations before the legislative session ended last month, but did not.

The council said both shops, like many others in the area, attracted tourists with huge neon signboards of camera brand names and did not show their shop names on the outside.

The chairman of the council's trade practice committee, William Chan Che-kwong, said it had warned the shops repeatedly but had not seen a change in their sales tactics, so it decided to name and shame them.

In one case, a South African tourist looking for a particular camera costing US$1,250 in Modern Digital was persuaded to buy a "newer and better" one for US$1,400.

The camera had no packaging case or user manual. He was given a free camera bag and was told the receipt could be used as a worldwide warranty.

He later found the camera was an older model and returned to the shop. The shop refused to change the camera because he did not have the packaging case or manual.

Chan said these tactics had existed for decades and were becoming more widespread. As the council had no prosecutorial power, there was little it could do.

The council has alerted the Tourist Commission and Hong Kong Tourism Board about the two shops and will inform the China Consumers' Association and National Tourism Administration on the mainland.

The Consumer Council received 602 complaints concerning audio-visual and digital electronic products in the first seven months of the year, compared with 537 in the same period last year. Complaints of unscrupulous sales tactics rose to 272 from 247.


  1. Last time I was there in 07, there were stores which looked just like those on every corner of Nathan Rd in TST.

  2. Sadly, nothing has changed in that sense. It seems these shops earn their living by snagging tourists. So much for the HK Government making the city a safe haven for shoppers.

  3. Yep, it's a good scam. Wonder who owns those shops, and if they happen to be related (by blood, marriage or money) to any persons in the government? Or am I too cynical?

  4. Nope, I think your skepticism is refreshing and helpful. Since these shops with fraudulent practices have been around for years, if not decades, it would not be surprising if there were some cronyism or nepotism going on.

  5. Just read in South China Morning Post …

    Aug 26, 2011

    Beware of the old bait and switch

    I would advise those, like me, visiting Hong Kong to beware when buying an iPhone, iPad, video camera or still camera if they are offered an unusually good price.

    They stand an excellent chance of being ripped off, especially on Nathan Road.

    I had this experience at the hands of a consummate "bait and switch" operator.

    As the Consumer Council points out, the salesman offers the unwary customer a competitive price quote and, through persuasion and fabrication, persuades the shopper to purchase goods other than those he or she wanted in the first place.

    The victim is persuaded to switch to a supposedly better but more expensive brand.

    In my case I was told blatant lies, and instead of buying an iPhone and iPad, which were what I wanted, I was persuaded to buy what turned out to be grossly defective locally made goods at highly inflated prices.

    Hong Kong has poor legal protection for victims of bait and switch. This is in contrast to jurisdictions such as Australia, Britain, the United States and Singapore.

    The relevant Hong Kong legislation was amended in June 2008, but the minor changes have had little or no effect.

    I note that the Consumer Council said in February last year that annual statistics "showed that the problem with undesirable sale practices involving unfair, misleading and deceptive tactics remained a matter of grave concern".

    According to the Hong Kong Tourism Board, last year 650,680 of my fellow Australians visited Hong Kong - that is 8.4 per cent more than in 2009.

    What I would say to them is, yes, do visit Hong Kong, it is a great destination - but beware of shady operators on Nathan Road.

    Donald Gutteridge, Sydney, Australia

  6. Thanks Anon. Yes, visitors should be clearly advised about these dodgy shops. Also, visitors should get away from the idea that they can find great bargains on relatively expensive items in Hong Kong. It's a myth. Yes, there are good deals to be had with cheap Ladies market stuff, but for real product brands visitors should expect to pay the market rate and, if they are lucky or persistent, perhaps there will be some goodies/freebies thrown in (e.g. just like the way Spike from Hongkie Town explains how he researched and bought his 47" LCD TV and other electronic goods from Hong Kong retailers in his excellent blog. Bundled in with his recent TV purchase, he managed to get a free 3D Blu-Ray player, 10 pairs of 3D glasses, an HDMI cable, and $500 in shopping coupons.)

    That's how people shop in Hong Kong!

    If everyone did that (shop sensibly), then perhaps those dodgy shops along Nathan Road will eventually "shut up shop"?