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In 2018 alone, the Consumer Council received a total of 3,718 consumer complaints relating to sales malpractices – a record high in recent years. Further, Customs received a total of 1,124 complaints in 2018 involving suspected aggressive commercial sales practices, of which 77%, related to beauty and fitness services.
There is currently no universal or statutory cooling-off regime in Hong Kong although some industries and retailers such as insurance companies and mobile network operators offer cooling-off periods of different durations for certain goods and services on a voluntary or self-regulated basis.
Even though change has been slow in comparison to many other jurisdictions such as the UK, Australia or even our Mainland counterpart, where they already have established mandatory cooling-off regimes for specific types of consumer contracts, change in Hong Kong is forthcoming.
On 15 January 2019, the Commerce, Industry and Tourism Branch of the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau issued a consultation paper seeking public views on the introduction of a statutory cooling-off period for consumer contracts relating to fitness and beauty services and the consultation period expired on 16 April 2019.
Proposed Key Operational Arrangements
We would imagine that consumers would applaud to this mandatory cooling-off period for certain types of consumer contracts, given that it will further enhance consumer protection and deter against unethical trade practices. However, a step further may be to implement a universal cooling-off period for Hong Kong, applicable not just to beauty and fitness services as proposed, but also to the existing self-regulating industries (such as insurance companies and mobile network operators) as different durations can cause confusion to consumers.
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