VIII. Online shopping

Shopping on the Internet is convenient but not risk free. There are no specific legislations in Hong Kong regulating online retail business. However, some provisions in various ordinances may apply.

A. Selling counterfeit goods online

Under Section 7(1)(a)(ii) of the Trade Descriptions Ordinance (Chapter 362), it is an offence to supply or offer to supply any goods to which a false trade description is applied, that is, goods that imitate another product but were not made by the manufacturer of the product that has been imitated. This includes offering to supply such goods on the Internet.

Pursuant to section 7(1)(b) of the same Ordinance, it is also an offence to possess at home for sale via the Internet goods.

Any person who commits an offence under section 7 shall be liable to a fine of $500,000 and to imprisonment for 5 years on conviction on indictment; and on summary conviction, to a fine at level 6 (currently $100,000) and to imprisonment for 2 years.

B. Not receiving product after ordering and paying over the Internet

If the seller never had the intention to supply the advertised goods or, having received money from the purchaser decides not to supply the goods, the seller may have committed the offence of theft under sections 2 and 9 of the Theft Ordinance (Chapter 210). The sum of money paid by the buyer is considered property stolen by the seller, if the seller did not supply the goods. The maximum sentence for the offence is 10 years’ imprisonment.

In addition, the seller may have also committed the offence of “obtaining property by deception” contrary to section 17 of the Theft Ordinance (Chapter 210). If there never was an intention to supply the goods, the purchaser has been dishonestly deceived into parting with his or her money. This offence carries a maximum sentence of 14 years’ imprisonment.

The Consumer Council has issued some online shopping tips to help consumers shop safely online. You may click here to view it (Chinese only).