Con­sumers need bet­ter pro­tec­tion in a free mar­ket

China Daily (USA) - - HONG KONG -

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.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

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.

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