Consumers need better protection in a free market
Samsung may have alienated its Hong Kong customer base, including many shoppers from the Chinese mainland, by continuing to sell its flagship Note 7 smartphone despite fears that it might catch fire.
The South Korean electronics giant assured Hong Kong consumers that the phone in question sold after September is fine although it has urged users in South Korea, its home market, not to use it. It has also suspended sales of the model there.
The Consumer Council has advised Hong Kong users to stop using the phone. But it has no legal power of enforcement.
A Hong Kong woman told a mass circulation Chineselanguage daily newspaper that the Note 7 phone she had bought last week from a Samsung shop had to be returned for a refund after the case was deformed by intense heat when the battery was being recharged. Samsung Hong Kong said it would investigate to identify the cause of the mishap, according to the news report.
That particular incident has raised the question of how much protection there is for Hong Kong consumers against defective products, some of which can be lifethreatening. Experts interviewed in the news story said that if the user had failed to stop the recharging process in time, that phone could have burst into flames.
Numerous proposals had been made in the past to give the Consumer Council more power to enforce safety standards. But none of those proposals could ever get beyond the consultation stage when they were shot down by powerful business interests in importing, wholesale and retail.
Hong Kong consumers are told that as long as they avoid buying fake products, they should be fine. Now, they are not so sure.
Opponents of laws seeking to enhance consumer protection often cite free market principle to justify their stance. But the government should stop this chicanery when the free market is being abused.
It’s not supposed to be a market that’s free-for-all.
The battery problem with Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 has raised the question of how Hong Kong consumers can be better protected against defective products.