Meeting between the DAB Women’s panel and the Customs and Excise Department...

2017.1.26

This past November, the DAB Women’s panel (“the panel”) received complaints about a skincare product named “SUIXXX HXXX” from around 20 residents. They referred to the fact that as soon as the residents in question stopped using this product, they immediately suffered severe skin allergies and adverse effects that required months of treatment to heal. At this time the victims asked for help from the Customs and Excise department, the department of health and the consumer council, but they did not receive a satisfactory response from any of them, leading the victims to feel a strong sense of hopelessness. This incident proved that the rules governing skincare and cosmetics products are not strict enough and have numerous loopholes which must be addressed.


The panel met today with representatives from the Customs and health departments and discussed on how to strengthen the safety standards surrounding cosmetics and skincare products. The victims have expressed to the panel that as they complained to the three departments mentioned above, the customs department refused to investigate as the product was not a counterfeit, the health department did not investigate the issue as the product did not contain a significant medical component, and the Consumer Council was unable to investigate to lacking both the requisite laboratory and the authority to do so. After the panel intervened to drive them to action, the Department of health announced preliminary results from its laboratory, that the product contained neither western medicinal nor heavy metal components, the customs department was still running its own investigation at that time. Although some cosmetic chain stores have already removed the product, the panel found that there are still online stores selling the product and therefore consumer protection is lacking. The incident shows that there are obvious loopholes in the regulatory system for cosmetics or skin care products, such as authority to investigate, spot checks, complaints and other issues, all of which must be seriously reviewed.


The Chief Trade and Controls officer of the Customs department noted that according to the “Consumer Goods Safety Ordinance”, the skin care products in question do adhere to the “general safety requirement”, and the health department’s laboratory investigation of the product found no trace of heavy metals. Thus, the work of each department must be carried out in light of the evidence and the rule of law.


Chairwoman of the panel and Legislative Councilor Elizabeth Quat questioned the fact that the current laws couldn’t protect consumers: “As new technologies come out every day, we should not rule out the possibility that unscrupulous merchants would use new technology to escape their legal responsibilities and liability. Therefore the customs and health departments should advance with the times and deal with these loopholes in order they can protect consumer rights and that such incidents should not happen again in the future.” The customs department along with the Department of Health (DH) and the Government Laboratory (GL) then agreed to conduct further tests on certain substances and to follow up on cases referred by this Council.


The Panel urges and requests the Customs and Excise Department to step up the safety supervision of cosmetics and skin-care products, intensify spot checks and proactively inspect retailers to ascertain whether they have sold products known or potentially unsafe (such as those recovered in the field). They should also examine product samples. On top of this, as there is no statutory requirement for cosmetics or skin care products to specify the date of manufacture, duration of use or composition of these products, we consider it necessary to review the relevant legislation including the Consumer Goods Safety Ordinance and the Trade Descriptions Ordinance and to increase penalties for violators. A new legislation proposal is required to regulate such cosmetics or skin care products and to add product labels in order to enhance the protection of consumer safety and interests.

Media Inquiries: Elizabeth Quat 9031 7995

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