Consumers are increasingly aware of businesses’ trade claims, especially if they are used as slogans or form the main reason for shopping at that particular store. In Hong Kong, 59% (2020) and 71% (2019) of consumer complaints from consumers related to services. Complaints relating to storage, postal and courier services are on the rise from 331 cases in 2019 to 696 cases in 2020, and have reached 556 cases already in the first 10 months of 2021. While guaranteeing fast delivery times may entice customers, it could be “criminally” dangerous for businesses if they do not live up to their claims and could attract investigations from regulators.
There are many ways a delivery claim can be caught as a criminal offence under the Trade Descriptions Ordinance in Hong Kong:
- False trade descriptions: falsely claiming (or guaranteeing) a delivery time.
- Misleading omission: failing to mention caveats that affect delivery time.
- Bait advertising: using the delivery time as bait and later telling customers that this delivery time does not apply to the goods purchased.
- Wrongly accepting payment: receiving orders with no prospect of living up to deliveries.
As traders and business owners:
- Always make sure your trade descriptions are accurate and not misleading. If there are caveats, make sure to explain them in a clear manner before consumers make the purchase.
- Where delivery times are uncertain in their nature, avoid making any absolute claim or guarantee.
- Be transparent about delivery capabilities, limitations and inherent uncertainties, especially in peak seasons and where delivery and supply conditions can change quickly due to force majeure events.
In summary, businesses should put in place the appropriate protections to safeguard their reputations and in turn, maximise customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Authored by Eugene Low and Charmaine Kwong.