Lobster hoax leads to restaurant fine

Local | Amy Nip 4 Jan 2018

Customs has won yet another battle against bad sales practices with a successful conviction over a buffet.

Yihe Japanese Yakiniku Restaurant was fined HK$10,000 for baiting customers in its advertisement, claiming there would be lobsters available in a buffet when in fact there was none.

The operator of the eatery in Tsim Sha Tsui admitted violating the "bait advertising" clause under the Trade Descriptions Ordinance.

Bait advertising means traders promote products or services knowing they would not be able to provide them at that price.

The Kowloon City Magistrates' Court heard that the restaurant had placed an advertisement near the Hart - the building where the restaurant is - which promoted a HK$114 all-you-can-eat seafood and roasted meat buffet. There would be lobsters, roasted oysters and Japanese beef in the buffet, according to the ad. When customers visited the restaurant, they found that all lobsters were sold out, and they must pay an extra HK$68 to get the roasted oysters. They complained to the customs afterward.

In its investigation, customs found that customers must pay extra for the oysters. The restaurant also failed to stock up enough lobsters and oysters, it found.

In mitigation, the restaurant runner said promotion work was contracted out. He did not pay attention to the ad's content, he said.

Magistrate Veronica Heung Shuk-han said the operator would have passed by the ad when he went to work every day.

Separately, ParknShop was fined HK$8,000 for putting wrong scientific names of two fish items on food labels - one coral grouper and a red seabream - at its Festival Walk Taste outlet from April to November 2016.

A shopper bought the fish, sent them to experts for tests and found the mistakes. The company said the fish were hard to differentiate, and would ask staff members to step up their knowledge of fish.

The fines came amid a series of prosecutions by the customs against restaurants and shops for misleading customers.

Last December the West Kowloon Magistrates' Court heard a case involving Fulum Group. The chain was accused of selling a "grouper" rice dish which contained no grouper - catfish was used instead.

The Consumer Council received 566 complaints against restaurants last year. Among them were 100 complaints about bad sales practices - double the 46 complaints in 2016.

The Trade Descriptions Ordinance prohibits bad sales practices, including false descriptions of products or services, misleading omissions, aggressive commercial practices like pressuring customers into purchases and bait advertising.

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