LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 287/96-97
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration)
Ref : CB1/BC/29/95/2

Bills Committee on Electricity (Amendment) Bill 1996

Minutes of the Meeting held on Tuesday, 15 October 1996 at 10:45 a.m. in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :
    Hon Mrs Selina CHOW, OBE, JP (Chairman)
    Dr Hon Samuel WONG Ping-wai, MBE, FEng, JP
    Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok
    Hon NGAN Kam Chuen
Members absent :
    Hon Fred LI Wah-ming
    Hon Henry TANG Ying-yen, JP
    Hon TSANG Kin-shing
Public officers attending :
    Mr Eric Johnson
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Economic Services
    Mr LAI Hon-chung
    Acting Chief Engineer
    Electrical & Mechanical Services Department
    Miss A AU
    Assistant Principal Crown Counsel
Clerk in attendance:
    Ms Estella CHAN
    Chief Assistant Secretary (1)4
Staff in attendance :
    Ms Kitty CHENG
    Assistant Legal Adviser 2 (ALA2)
    Miss Anita SIT
    Senior Assistant Secretary (1)6

Meeting with the Administration

Definition of "supply" and application of the proposed legislation

1. Pursuant to members’ concern raised at the last meeting as to whether a trade contract made in Hong Kong for a quantity of electrical products, which were to be manufactured either in or outside Hong Kong and supplied for sale in an overseas market, should fall within the proposed definition of "supply", Mr Eric Johnson clarified the Administration’s policy intention as set out in its tabled letter of 14 October 1996. He advised that the Administration was considering what amendments to the Bill were needed to clarify the intention.Admin

(Post-meeting note: The Administration in its letter of 28 October 1996 advised that amendment would be made to section 3(2) of the proposed Electrical Products (Safety) Regulation to clarify the intention. The letter was circulated vide LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 210/96-97 on 29 October 1996.)

Exemption provision for electrical products intended for use outside Hong Kong

2. Mr Johnson explained the Administration’s position regarding the exemption of electrical products intended for use outside Hong Kong under the proposed Electrical Products (Safety) Regulation (EPSR), stressing that the proposal to repeal the exemption provision of section 24(1) did not signify a policy change but was intended to close a loophole. There was also no general exemption for products claimed to be intended for overseas use under the relevant legislation in Singapore and in UK.

3. The Chairman noted that according to the information provided by the Hong Kong Tourist Association, tourist spending on electrical/sound equipment in Hong Kong amounted to HK$968 million in 1995. She remarked that Hong Kong would probably lose a significant portion of this income if the existing exemption provision of section 24(1) for electrical products intended for use outside Hong Kong was summarily repealed. On the option of retaining the exemption provision but stipulating that such products must be affixed with labels to indicate that the products were intended for overseas use only, Mr LAI Hon-chung said that the Administration considered that this option would be subject to abuse. He pointed out that when the Consumer Protection (Safety Requirements) Regulations, which was enacted in Singapore in 1992, were proposed, various trades in Singapore also called for broad exemption of products for "export only". The Singapore government insisted that the legislation should provide no such exemption. He added that the statutory safety requirements for electrical products in Singapore was more stringent than those being proposed for Hong Kong. Mr Johnson supplemented that the labelling option might result in a bigger loophole than the one presently associated with the existing exemption provision because anyone could offer for sale any unsafe product simply by affixing a label claiming that the product was intended for use outside Hong Kong.

4. Members felt that the Administration’s argument that the exemption provision would be subject to abuse by suppliers was rather presumptuous; it was assumed that the trade in general was not cooperative and that there were many in the trade who were ready to find and take advantage of loopholes. Members also felt that the possible loss of income from tourists and the inconvenience caused to potential emigrants and local residents as a result of the repeal of the exemption provision were unwarranted. They were of the view that the exemption provision should not be summarily repealed at this stage. Instead, the legislation should provide leeway for the sale of electrical products intended for use outside Hong Kong. Members however appreciated that to protect consumers against unsafe products and the danger of using incompatible products in Hong Kong, it would be justified for the Administration to impose certain requirements on suppliers such as compulsory labelling with product specifications and warnings etc. Members requested and the Administration agreed to further consider the option of allowing the sale of electrical products intended for use outside Hong Kong while applying certain safeguards such as compulsory labelling.Admin

(Post-meeting note: The Administration maintained its position that section 24(1) should be repealed in its letter of 28 October 1996. The issue was again discussed at the meeting on 30 October 1996.)

Plug configurations

5. A member noted that according to his experience in UK, many electrical products on sale in UK were not fitted with plugs, and plugs were sold separately. Mr LAI advised that the safety requirements of the relevant regulation in UK were similar to those of the Plugs and Adaptors (Safety) Regulation now in force in Hong Kong, but he was not certain about whether supplying electrical products without plugs was allowed under the UK legislation. He remarked that it might not be safe for consumers to affix the plugs themselves and therefore it was undesirable to allow products without plugs to be supplied in Hong Kong.

6. On the reason for requiring all electrical products to be affixed with 3-pin plugs even though the earthing was not installed in some products, Mr LAI advised that the Plugs and Adaptors (Safety) Regulation enacted in March 1995 stipulated that all products should be affixed with 3-pin plugs irrespective of whether there was any earthing installed. The intention was to ensure that the plugs could be tightly fitted into the sockets the configurations of which were also prescribed. Plugs loosely fitted into the sockets were dangerous as they could cause fire and electrical shock.

Use of prohibited electrical products

7. Members noted the explanation set out in the Administration’s letter of 14 October 1996 on the need to retain the existing provisions regarding the use of prohibited electrical products [sections 25, 29(2) and 29(3)]. It was stated in the letter that a successful prosecution for such an offence would be difficult unless the burden of proof was on the user to show that he did not know that the product being used was prohibited. The Chairman enquired about the situation if the burden of proof was on the prosecution. ALA2 advised that if the burden of proof was on the prosecution, the prosecution would have to provide evidence to prove that the user knew that the use of the electrical product was prohibited. It was not necessarily difficult to make a successful proof for that. The court would examine, amongst other things, circumstantial evidence to decide whether the user had such knowledge. Publicity on the prohibition launched by the authority might be used by the prosecution to infer such knowledge. She also advised that provisions requiring the prosecution to prove that the defendant had knowingly committed an act prohibited by the authority were not uncommon in other ordinances.

8. In response to a member’s enquiry on the enforcement procedure with regard to products found unsafe after being released on the market, Mr LAI advised that whenever any potentially unsafe electrical product came to the attention of the authority, EMSD would conduct an independent type test to ascertain the product’s safety. If the product was found unsafe, EMSD together with the supplier would plan a recall of the product. The recall would be facilitated by publicity and wholesalers’ and retailers’ assistance would be enlisted. As to how people who had bought the unsafe products could be encouraged to return the products, Mr LAI said that this should not be a problem as people returning the products would usually be compensated

9. On the power of the authority to enter private premises to search and/or seize prohibited electrical products, Mr LAI said that such action would only be taken in response to complaints or reports regarding particular premises and the authority would not be empowered to enter into private premises without the consent of the owner.

10. The Chairman drew members’ attention to the fact that there was no proposed amendment in the Bill to the existing provisions regarding the use of prohibited electrical products. She also remarked that in practice, the provisions would be invoked only when there was an accident caused by the use of prohibited electrical products.

Certification bodies

11. The Chairman noted that since the enactment of certain other ordinances concerning product safety, some suppliers had commented that there were not enough recognised testing laboratories for product safety testing in Hong Kong and it often took a long time to obtain a safety certificate in respect of a product from these laboratories due to the heavy demand for their services. Mr LAI said that the relatively small number of testing laboratories in Hong Kong was attributable to the fact that not many products were manufactured in Hong Kong and thus the overall demand for the service was not great. He advised that in drawing up the proposed legislation and regulation, EMSD had consulted the Industry Department (ID) and local testing laboratories. It was considered that laboratory service for product safety testing should be adequate after the enactment of the proposed EPSR. He advised that the ID administered an accreditation scheme for local testing laboratories (Hong Kong Laboratory Accreditation Scheme) and maintained a full list of accredited testing laboratories in Hong Kong. There were agreements for mutual recognition between this accreditation scheme and similar accreditation schemes in overseas countries, including UK, USA and some European countries. Local laboratories kept close liaison with overseas laboratories and made referrals to overseas laboratories when certain testing technology was lacking in Hong Kong.

12. At the Chairman’s request, Mr LAI agreed to provide the list of accredited testing laboratories/recognised certification bodies for product safety under ID’s accreditation scheme. The Chairman also requested the Administration to examine whether laboratory services would be adequate in facilitating due compliance of suppliers with the safety requirements within the proposed 12-month grace period after the enactment of the proposed EPSR.Admin

(Post-meeting note: The Administration provided a list of HOKLAS accredited laboratories and a list of National Certification Bodies under the CB Scheme vide its letter of 28 October 1996.)

Certificate of safety compliance

13. In response to the Chairman’s enquiry, Mr LAI advised that certificates of safety compliance (CSC) for electrical products were also required in many overseas countries. After the enactment of the proposed EPSR, testing laboratories participating in well established national or international certification bodies (CB) scheme, such as the CB scheme administered by the International Electrotechnical Commission, would be eligible to apply for recognition as recognised certification bodies. CSC issued by these testing laboratories would be accepted under the proposed EPSR. He also advised that CSC issued by recognized certification bodies and recognized manufacturers were only required for the six prescribed electrical products under Schedule 2 of the proposed EPSR. For other non-prescribed electrical products, the declaration of conformity by manufacturers would also be acceptable.

"Non-mass produced" electrical products

14. On whether "non-mass produced" electrical products would be covered by the proposed EPSR, Mr LAI advised that "non-mass produced" products were usually not designed for household use and hence would not be covered by the proposed EPSR. However, if the electrical product was designed for household use, the proposed EPSR would apply.

Date of next meeting

15. Members agreed that the next Bills Committee meeting would be held on 30 October 1996 at 8:30 am. The Chairman said that the Bills Committee would start the clause-by-clause examination of the Bill and the proposed EPSR at the next meeting.

Legislative Council Secretariat

8 November 1996

Last Updated on 10 December 1998