The fair trading sections of the Trade Descriptions Ordinance (Cap. 362) (the “TDO”) (i.e. sections 4, 5, 7, 7A, 13E, 13F, 13G, 13H and 13I) prohibit specified unfair trade practices deployed by traders against consumers, including false trade descriptions of goods and services, misleading omissions, aggressive commercial practices, bait advertising, bait-and-switch and wrongly accepting payment. Contravention of the “fair trading sections” is a criminal offence. Upon conviction, the offender is liable to a maximum fine of $500,000 and to imprisonment for five years. The TDO also introduces a civil compliance-based mechanism to encourage compliance by traders and to stop identified non-compliant practices, under which the enforcement agencies may, as an alternative to criminal prosecution, accept an undertaking from a trader whom the enforcement agencies believe has engaged in a prohibited unfair trade practice to stop that practice.

Delineation of Responsibilities between Enforcement Agencies

The Customs and Excise Department is the principal agency responsible for enforcing the TDO. Concurrent jurisdiction is conferred on the Communications Authority (“CA”), with the Office of the Communications Authority (“OFCA”) as its executive arm, to enforce the “fair trading sections” in relation to the commercial practices of licensees under the Telecommunications Ordinance (Cap. 106) and the Broadcasting Ordinance (Cap. 562) that are directly connected with the provision of a telecommunications service or broadcasting service under the two Ordinances. To enforce the TDO effectively and to ensure that every case is taken up by the appropriate enforcement agency, the Commissioner of Customs and Excise (the “Commissioner”) and the CA have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding for the purpose of coordinating the performance of their functions.

Enforcement Guidelines

Pursuant to the TDO, the Commissioner and the CA have published the Enforcement Guidelines to state the manner in which they will exercise their enforcement powers and provide guidance on the operation of the "fair trading sections".

Points to Note

  1. Upon receipt of a complaint, OFCA may request further information from the complainant. As commitment of the unfair trade practices prohibited under the TDO is a criminal offence, the complainant is required to attend
    interview(s) with and provide written statement(s) to OFCA or officers of other enforcement agencies, and to act as a prosecution witness in court proceedings, where necessary.
  2. Pursuant to the relevant requirements, including section 17(2) of the TDO, the CA will not disclose any information obtained in the investigation and the factors taken into account in drawing conclusions.
  3. Generally speaking, contractual disputes and customer service quality issues are outside the scope of the TDO. A complainant may lodge a complaint with the licensee concerned or via OFCA regarding such issues. However, please note that the CA’s power and functions in regulating the licensees are limited to those provided for under the Telecommunications Ordinance / Broadcasting Ordinance and the licence conditions. The CA has no statutory power and role in the settlement of monetary and contractual disputes or customer service quality issues between individual customers and the licensees concerned.
  4. The "fair trading sections" of the TDO apply to "business-to-consumer" transactions only. "Business-to-business" transactions are outside the scope of the TDO.


The description of the "fair trading sections" of the TDO on this webpage / in this article is for general reference only. You should refer to the relevant provisions of the TDO for a complete and definitive statement of the law.