Consumer watchdog calls for more transparency in skincare products sold on e-shops

Hong Kong’s consumer watchdog has found that over half of the online shops of skincare brands it investigated have failed to display the ingredient lists of their products, leaving customers in the dark about crucial product information.

The Consumer Council’s investigation between May and June this year surveyed 58 online skincare stores - including 46 brand official e-stores such as Aesop, Clé De Peau Beauté, and Guerlain, as well as 12 shopping websites like Sephora and Strawberrynet.

It was found that more than half of the stores did not provide the detailed ingredients list of their products – with some stores only named a few important ingredients, while some only mentioned the ingredients that were not used in the making of their product.

The survey also discovered that the ingredients information provided in two online stores were inaccurate as they were not up-to-date, and another ten stores did not specify the appropriate skin type for their products.

The number of complaints about online skincare products has been on the rise due to the pandemic, according to the watchdog. It has received 205 complaints in the first half of this year alone, compared to the 115 complaints in 2019 and 227 complaints last year.

The Council believed that the increased number of people shopping online during the pandemic has contributed to the rise in the figure.

It noted that 40 percent of the complaints were regarding delayed delivery time, while some 40 people suspected that they had received fake or expired products.

The watchdog added that some online shoppers also reported that the texture and smell of the skincare products purchased online were different from the ones they purchased in stores, which may even cause irritation and redness.

Chief executive of the Consumer Council Gilly Wong Fung-han explained that even though the selling of skincare products online is regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Ordinance, there is no specific policy that requires suppliers to label the detailed ingredients list on product packaging.

Wong pointed out that the mainland, the United Kingdom, the United States, and European countries already have relevant legislation in place, and suggested Hong Kong follow suit and explore more policies regulating the selling of skincare products online to protect customers.

The watchdog chief also reminded the public to choose products that match their skin type rather than going for expensive products. She also said customers should pay close attention to the product ingredients and consider purchasing testers beforehand to ensure the products are a perfect fit.