Hong Kong customs officers have arrested two workers at a dispensary in the Tsim Sha Tsui shopping and tourist district for allegedly using misleading price tags, with customers paying 16 times more than expected for American ginseng.
The pair, aged 54 and 58, from Tung Yan Medicine Company on Peking Road, were arrested on Thursday in connection with misleading omissions on a price tag when they charged an undercover customs officer HK$15,680 (US$2,010), rather than HK$980, for American ginseng.
The price tag said the product cost HK$980 – with the Chinese characters “per tael” too small to read – said Shek Ka-yin, commander of customs’ unfair trade practice investigation division. One catty is 16 taels.
When the officer asked to confirm it was HK$980 per catty, the shop assistants allegedly failed to give a clear reply.
The shopkeepers then sliced the ginseng quickly and told the officer it was priced per tael, attempting to charge 16 times more than expected.
Shek also said the shop had taken advantage of electronic payment methods popular in mainland China. Customers would only realise how much they had forked out after payment QR codes were scanned by their phones, he said.
The pair was detained for inquiries before being released on bail pending further investigation.
Shek said the operation was launched after recent complaints from mainland tourists over misleading price tags on other Chinese herbs.
Tourists are showing signs of returning to the city following the cancellation of all coronavirus-related travel restrictions with the mainland.
Shady practices involving misleading price tags and inflated bills were rampant before the Covid-19 pandemic struck in 2020 and tourists stopped visiting.
Under the Trade Descriptions Ordinance, any trader who engages in a commercial practice that omits or hides material information or provides material information in a manner that is unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely, and as a result causes, or is likely to cause, an average consumer to make a transactional decision, commits an offence.