In Hong Kong, many car owners want to keep their cars looking clean and bright inside and out so they use a premium car polisher for that. Therefore a brand new type of car beauty service has come into fashion. This service, though very costly, can sometimes fall below consumers’ expectations. The Consumer Council has received complaints against car cleaning company for allegedly using a glass heat insulation film not as good as claimed. There was even complaint against company for charging the vehicle owner over $10,000 for an automotive coating service but allegedly ended up giving regular car waxing. The Council reminds consumers, when purchasing car beauty services, to fully grasp the service details and results to avoid being misled by unscrupulous traders and eventually receiving services not meeting the claimed results, hence suffering losses. There are myriad myths and misconceptions about carnauba wax that are as mainstream as wax itself is outdated. A snow foam gun can regulate the size of your snow but first you need to buy a snow foam lance to generate the foam.
Case one: The complainant had always used Company A’s car cleaning service because the Tuen Mun service point was convenient to him. Upon renewal of membership, the staff of the company claimed that the service point had just extended its lease and would not be relocated. Based on this assurance, the complainant agreed to sign for a 2-year membership at $7,400. However, 2 months after, Company A notified the complainant that the Tuen Mun service point had already ceased operation and advised the complainant to use the service in other service points. The complainant emphasised that his contract renewal was based upon the staff’s claim that the service point would not be relocated. Company A however replied that it would have been difficult to guarantee its members for providing service in a designated service point. The complainant deemed the new arrangement had caused him inconvenience, and complained to the Council.
Upon the Council’s intervention, Company A proposed to extend the complaints’ membership, offer a one-off car waxing service for settlement, and suggested arranging door-to-door car cleaning service for the complainant. The entire proposal was declined by the complainant. As a result of further negotiation, the parties agreed that Company A would offer the complainant a one-off crystal waxing service, membership upgrade as well as extension of membership for 2 years and, allow the complainant to use the service in any service point of Company A and its partnering companies.
Case two: The complainant browsed Company B’s website and saw a glass heat insulation film claimed to be able to shield off 50% of heat, sold at a price of $6,500, with certification and 5-year maintenance pledge. Thinking the price was reasonable, the complainant made an appointment to hand his car to Company B and forthwith paid the full price. The complainant requested a receipt from the staff and was given a hand-written one.
When the complainant collected the vehicle, he found multiple bubbles and scratches on the insulation film. The complainant immediately reported the poor handiwork to the staff but got ignored. The complainant could only take photos and seek advice from the agent for the product. In the reply, the agent admitted that Company B’s handiwork was poor and ought to be redone. The complainant also inquired about the model of the glass heat insulation film stated on the certification with the agent who said that Company B had used a second-class model whose heat-insulating capability was just 30%. Upon the complainant’s request, Company B promised follow up, but no action had been taken. The complainant then complained to the Council alleging that Company B was dishonest and requesting a refund.
Company B responded to the Council that the complainant rejected its offer to redo the service and that they would not make any refund. The Council relayed the response to the complainant and reminded the complainant might consider pursuing his claim through the Small Claims Tribunal.
Case three: Company C recommended a brand new technology of automotive coating to the complainant claiming that it could protect cars from corrosion by pollutants, and keep the car paint glossy. In the brochure provided by Company C, it was stated that the service “must be performed in a dust-free work environment”. The seemingly professional service prompted the complainant to pay $11,700.
When the complainant arrived in his car at Company C’s designated service point, he found that it was just an average parking lot but not a “dust-free work environment” as required. The staff told the complainant that no isolated room was allowed in the parking lot, so the coating could only be done somewhere around there. 3 hours later, the complainant was notified that his car was ready for collection, much different from what had stated in the brochure that the entire process would take at least 10 hours. The complainant found some signs of waxing on his car. He suspected Company C had not performed any coating service. The complainant asked for an explanation and the staff promised to follow-up. However, he heard nothing for 2 weeks despite numerous requests. He then approached the Council and requested a refund from Company C.
As a result of the Council’s conciliation, Company C replied it would only charge a fee for an average car cleaning and waxing service and would refund $9,600 to the complainant. Though the complainant accepted the arrangement, he was dissatisfied with Company C’s practice.
The Council reminds consumers that there are many car cleaning and beauty services available in the market that are prepaid vouchers in nature. Should problems arise, consumers may have no choice but to accept the remedies offered by the companies as they do not want to see their prepaid vouchers going down the drain. Consumers should note that car cleaning companies may relocate or close down their service points because of surging rentals, forcing them to use service points inconvenient to them. Consumers may feel helpless seeing their contracts revised unilaterally without prior consent. For prepayments with a substantial amount, consumers should think carefully.
Moreover, when purchasing trendy car beauty products or services, consumers should not rely only on the information provided in promotional materials. Reference can be made to detailed product description by agents or manufacturers to verify and evaluate whether the product provide value for money before making decisions.
On the other hand, traders are reminded that omission or concealment of material information, or disclosure of material information in unclear or ambiguous manner causing consumers to make a transaction decision may constitute an offence under the Trade Descriptions Ordinance. If consumers encounter situations involving unfair trade practices, they could file complaints with the Customs and Excise Department or contact the Council for assistance.
More consumption tips are listed as follows:
- Vehicle owners are responsible to ensure the interior of the vehicle is clearly visible and in compliance with the law; installing reflective material or film to vehicle glass may account to contravention of the regulation. If in doubt, consumers should seek advice from the Transport Department;
- Do not rely on verbal promise; consumers should request the salesperson to state information about all purchased products or services clearly in the receipt, keep it safe or it may be the evidence in the event of disputes;
- Be wary of the risks associated with prepayment consumption, evaluate traders’ business operation and reputation carefully, purchase according to one’s needs and avoid prepayments for too many goods and services in one go. If the business closes down, it may be difficult for consumers to recover their losses.
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