Consumer Council calls for enhanced oversight in pet services sector

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AI-generated image for illustration purpose only.

15th April 2024 – (Hong Kong) The Consumer Council’s recent findings have exposed significant deficiencies within the pet services industry, emphasising the need for stricter regulation and better consumer protection. As families increasingly view their pets as cherished members, the demand for exemplary pet care services continues to grow. Yet, discrepancies in service quality and accountability persist, affecting both animal welfare and consumer satisfaction.

The Consumer Council has highlighted numerous instances where pet owners have encountered deceptive practices, inadequate services, and a general lack of recourse in addressing grievances. These issues not only compromise the quality of care provided to pets but also violate the consumer rights of their owners.

A pet owner, after purchasing two puppies from Pet Shop A, was pressured into buying an expensive, year-long supply of the shop’s branded dog food to secure a 60-day health warranty for the puppies. The shop claimed that any brand switch could jeopardize the puppies’ health. However, the shop later failed to supply the agreed food due to alleged shipment delays, substituting it with a cheaper alternative that caused health issues for the puppies. The owner’s requests for a refund were ignored, prompting intervention by the Consumer Council.

Another pet owner used the services of Trader B for the hospice care and cremation of her cat, paying extra for a paw print keepsake—a request confirmed over the phone. After the cremation, she discovered that the keepsake could not be made because the necessary imprint had not been taken. Despite claims of prior confirmation, the staff shifted the blame to the consumer. The unresolved issue led to a formal complaint and, only after the Consumer Council’s mediation, did Trader B agree to offer a crystal photo frame as compensation.

A consumer purchased a $2,800 grooming service package from Trader C, valid for 18 months. However, she faced repeated difficulties in booking appointments due to fully booked schedules or staff unavailability. With the package nearing expiration and services largely unused, the trader initially refused to extend the validity or refund the remaining balance. Following a complaint to the Consumer Council, the trader relented, allowing the consumer to use the remaining balance on other products.

These case studies underline the pressing need for reforms within the pet services industry. The Consumer Council has proposed several measures:

  • Implementation of Clear Regulations: Establishing clear, enforceable standards for pet services to ensure consistent quality and accountability.
  • Strengthening Enforcement Mechanisms: Enhancing the enforcement of existing regulations to hold providers accountable for malpractices.
  • Educating Consumers: Increasing efforts to educate pet owners about their rights and the standards of service they should expect.
  • Promoting Industry Self-Regulation: Encouraging the development of industry-led standards and practices that prioritise pet welfare and consumer rights.