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Beware of overseas relocators’ hidden charges and delivery delays, says Consumer Council

The Consumer Council has received 20 complaints against overseas removal companies in the first seven months of this year, as the number of people emigrating overseas soared.


Most of them related to last-minute price increases, hidden charges or delivery delays.

Consumer Council's reminder on overseas moving services.

The government has no official estimates on the number of people who have emigrated, but the latest population tally suggests that there was a net outflow of 89,200 people between mid-2020 and 2021. By mid-2021, the city had 7,394,700 people, or 1.2% less than a year ago.


The consumer watchdog advises people relocating overseas to watch out for hidden surcharges after an undercover investigation by the council found that shipping charges quoted by relocators varied by a great deal.


The investigation involved Consumer Council staff members posing as customers to ask for quotations of the costs of shipping to London in Britain and Toronto in Canada.


Of the 14 relocators that responded, the quoted charges for shipping 40 to 50 boxes to London ranged from $20,000 to $50,000.


Half of them did not remind consumers that the actual charges may be different from the estimates, and a similar number of companies said they would charge extra fees if the boxes had to be carried upstairs, though some were unclear about the charging scales.


For shipping to Toronto, although eight of the 11 responding companies took the initiative to tell customers that the final charges may be different from the quotations, most of them said it was  difficult to provide a precise delivery time and the cost of upstairs unloading.


Besides, most companies said it was difficult to accurately determine when the goods could be shipped and when they would arrive, said Nora Tam Fung-Yee, chairman of the council’s Research and Testing Committee.


For example, the estimated time for the goods to arrive in London given by different companies ranged from six weeks to five months, she said.


“This situation makes it difficult for customers to calculate the budget and arguments may arise. The survey found that the information provided by overseas moving companies lacked transparency,” said Ms Tam.


The Young Reporter has found on Facebook a group whose members include ex-Hongkongers who recently moved to Britain and have complaints about the relocators’ exorbitant charges and service delays.


“After receiving the goods, my nightmare began,” said a group member by the name of Mattie Mak. “I was forced to pay storage fees and expensive shipping charges,” he says.


The Consumer Council reminds consumers that in choosing an overseas relocator, they need to understand the relevant terms and pay attention to the reputation of the company.


In case of disputes, consumers may contact the Consumer Council or the relocator’s local business agent for help, said Gilly Wong, Director General of the Consumer Council.


“But most importantly (you have) to work with your shipping company because your goods are in their hands.  So it is very important for them to trace it for you and deliver it to your door,” she said.


《The Young Reporter》

The Young Reporter (TYR) started as a newspaper in 1969. Today, it is published across multiple media platforms and updated constantly to bring the latest news and analyses to its readers.


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