Council warns on flat-buying delay

Top News | Sophie Hui 4 Nov 2019

A longer cooling-off period for flat purchases might not be good for home buyers, the Consumer Council said.

The watchdog's chief executive, Gilly Wong Fung-han, said yesterday it has noted differing opinions over the five-day cooling-off period but says extending the period may lead to a costlier initial deposit.

"Of course, from the consumers' point of view, they would like to have a longer cooling-off period from currently five days, extended to seven to 14 days, but there is a causal relationship," she said.

"If the cooling-off period is too long, the amount of deposit being forfeited could be bigger."

The social environment of a jurisdiction determines the length of cooling-off period for flat purchases and the amount of forfeited deposit.

The council's chairman, Paul Lam Ting-kwok, also said it has looked into practices of different regions, noting the period varies as it involved factors such as the amount of deposit and the portion of the deposit to be forfeited due to the cooling-off period.

"We cannot only look at the length of the cooling-off period, we also have to look at its consequences," Lam said.

He also said it is vital for consumers to have fair and accurate information when they are buying a flat as it is one of the biggest decisions in life for many people.

Lam also urged the Legislative Council to pass the law on a cooling-off period for beauty and fitness services in this legislative session, saying it is a "humble request" and "the job is almost done."

He said there are still unfair trade practices after the amended Trade Descriptions Ordinance was put into effect in 2013.

"As for the protection of consumers, any livelihood issue should not be halted because of the controversies in society," he said.

"Unfair trade practices should not be tolerated under whatever social circumstances."

Lam also said for the long term, the watchdog would like the Money Lenders Ordinance to be amended.

He said that it is not difficult for people to borrow money under the current financial culture, but people could go broke if they cannot pay back the money.

Many countries have a unified organization for handling loans and have done a better job.

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