LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 406/96-97
(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 Wednesday, 30 October 1996 at 8:30 a.m. in Conference Room B 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
    Miss A AU
    Assistant Principal Crown Counsel
    Mr UY Tat-ping
    Chief Engineer
    Electrical & Mechanical Services Department
    Mr LAI Hon-chung
    Senior Engineer
    Electrical & Mechanical Services Department
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

I Confirmation of minutes of meeting

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 181/96-97)

The minutes of the meeting held on 26 September 1996 were confirmed.

II Meeting with the Administration

Clause 2 - Interpretation

Definition of "supply"

2. Members noted the Administration’s proposed amendment to section 3(2) of the proposed Electrical Products (Safety) Regulation (EPSR) by adding subsection "3(2)(f) supplied in a place other than Hong Kong under a sale agreement entered into in Hong Kong." to the list of circumstances under which the EPSR would not apply. Mr Eric Johnson supplemented that the proposed amendment was intended to clarify the policy intention of applying the proposed legislation only to electrical products supplied in Hong Kong.

Clause 3 - Exemption

Proposed repeal of section 24(1)

3. The Chairman informed the meeting that in response to the Bills Committee’s enquiry, the Hong Kong Tourist Association had advised that the survey on tourist expenditure on main shopping categories was conducted at the departure halls of the exit points of the territory, and the survey contained a question to distinguish local residents from tourists. Therefore, the amount of HK$968 million quoted on page 16 of the Association’s report "A statistical review of tourism 1995" represented exclusively the spending of tourists on electrical/sound appliances in Hong Kong in 1995. The Chairman also advised that in her recent communications with the trade, some trade associations had expressed concern about the potential adverse impact of the proposed repeal of the existing provision on the trade.

4. Members noted the Administration’s position set out in its letter of 28 October 1996 that the Administration did not agree to granting exemption to electrical products labelled as intended for use outside Hong Kong. Mr UY Tat-ping and Mr LAI Hon-chung supplemented that under the proposed EPSR, electrical products were required to meet various prescribed safety requirements apart from plug configurations. If the exemption provision of section 24(1) was retained, electrical products labelled as intended for use outside Hong Kong would be broadly exempted from all the prescribed safety requirements. As such, the proposed legislation would not protect local consumers and tourists against inherently unsafe electrical products so long as the products were labelled as intended for overseas use.

5. Mr UY said that if the exemption provision was repealed, the main problem that would be encountered by tourists or potential emigrants buying an electrical product in Hong Kong for overseas use was the incompatibility of the 3-pin plugs with the sockets used overseas. Apart from employing travel adaptors, the problem might be overcome by suppliers by attaching an additional 3-pin plug that met the prescribed configurations under the proposed EPSR to a product already fitted with a plug for overseas use. The product would be allowed to be supplied in Hong Kong provided that the additional 3-pin plug could only be detached by using a special tool and that the other prescribed safety requirements were met. A member pointed out that the additional cost of attaching the 3-pin plug might be so significant that it would render the product unprofitable. To facilitate further deliberation on the viability of the option suggested by Mr UY, Members requested and the Administration agreed to provide an estimate on the additional cost to install a detachable 3-pin plug on top of the original plug.Admin

6. The Chairman remarked that the Bills Committee’s main concern about the proposed repeal of the exemption provision was the potential adverse economic impact on Hong Kong, in particular the loss of income from tourist spending on electrical products. She agreed that inherently unsafe products should not be allowed to be supplied in Hong Kong. She suggested that the Administration explore the "half-way" option of prohibiting the supply of all inherently unsafe electrical products while allowing the supply of electrical products intended for overseas use by exempting them from the requirements exclusively concerned with the compatibility with the local wiring practice, provided that those products met the essential safety requirements. In this connection, the safety requirements concerning exclusively with the compatibility with the local wiring practice should be distinguished from the other safety requirements prescribed under the proposed EPSR, so as to facilitate the distinction between inherently unsafe products and products that were safe if used in specified countries.

7. As regards the danger associated with using incompatible electrical products, the Chairman suggested that the Administration impose certain measures to ensure that consumers buying those products would be adequately informed of such danger. This might be effectively achieved by requiring suppliers to affix a prominent warning message on the product. If this was subsequently found inadequate to deter people from using incompatible products, the Administration might then introduce additional measures to ensure that those products were sold to overseas visitors only. The Administration agreed to consider the above suggestions.Admin

Clause 4 - Prohibition of electrical products

Proposed amendments to section 25(2)

8. On how far suppliers would be advised of prohibition notices, Mr UY advised that when a notice by the Director of Electrical & Mechanical Services (DEMS) to prohibit the supply of an electrical product was gazetted, DEMS would at the same time issue letters to local suppliers to inform them of the notice.

9. On whether there was any time limit to the holding of seized products by the authority, Miss A AU advised that under the existing section 43(2), a person whose products were seized could lodge an appeal against the seizure within four weeks from the date of seizure. In this connection, the Chairman enquired if the authority was obliged to inform the person of his right to appeal. ALA2 advised that it was possible to include in the law provisions stipulating that the concerned authority was obliged to inform the defendent of his right to appeal against the decision or action of the authority but such provisions were not common in other ordinances. Mr UY assured that DEMS would advise the defendent of his right to appeal by setting out section 43(2) in the seizure notice served on the defendent. The Chairman requested that this assurance be given by the Secretary for Economic Services when the Bill was passed.Admin

Clause 5 - Section added

Proposed addition of section 25A. Compensation for seizure and detention

10. In response to the Chairman’s enquiry, Miss A AU advised that the criteria for determining the amount of compensation were adapted from the relevant provisions in the Consumer Goods Safety Ordinance and the Toys and Children’s Products Safety Ordinance. ALA2 supplemented that the basic principle for the court’s consideration was "just and equitable" while the conduct and comparative blameworthiness of the various parties stipulated in the proposed sections 25A(2)(a) to (d) were specific considerations.

Clauses 6 to 8

11. Members had no specific comment on these clauses.

Clause 9 - Major offences

12. Members noted the comments made by the Consumer Council in respect of the existing section 29(3). The Council considered the provision unacceptable as the onus was on the defendant to prove that he had not knowingly used a prohibited electrical product. The Chairman noted that in the Bill there was no proposed amendment to section 29(3) nor section 29(2) which section 29(3) referred to, and expressed doubt if it was beyond the scope of the Bills Committee to propose amendments to section 29(3). ALA2 advised that although there was no proposed amendment to sections 29(3) and 29(2) in the Bill, the provisions were not totally unrelated to the Bill. She undertook to ascertain the position and advise members in writing. The Chairman said that subject to ALA2’s advice and the Administration’s response, the Bills Committee would consider if it would move CSAs in respect of section 29(3) to the effect that the burden of proof be reverted to the prosecution.ALA2

Clause 10 - Sections added

Proposed addition of section 56B. Defence of due diligence

Members noted the concern expressed by the Hong Kong & Kowloon Electric Trade Association in respect of the proposed section 53B(3) which stipulated the circumstances under which a person could not rely on the defence of due diligence. The Chairman pointed out that whether the concern of the Association was warranted depended on whether the future provision of testing services was adequate to facilitate due compliance by suppliers. She said that the Bills Committee would examine this provision in the light of further information on accredited testing laboratories and certification bodies in Hong Kong to be provided by the Administration.Admin

Clause 11 - Regulations

Proposed addition of sections 59(5) to (7)

13. Members noted the concern raised by ETA about possible abuse or misuse of the proposed empowerment provision of section 59(6) by the Secretary for Economic Services. ALA2 advised that the wordings "may by order in the Gazette" in the proposed section 59(6) implied that amendments made under this provision were to be subsidiary legislation of the Electricity Ordinance. Under Cap. 1 of the Laws of Hong Kong, subsidiary legislation enacted by such negative procedures would be subject to LegCo Members’ scrutiny and Members were entitled to raise objection to it within 28 days after the subsidiary legislation was gazetted. Having noted ALA2’s advise, members considered the proposed empowerment provision acceptable.

Recognised certification bodies - Section 9 and Schedule 3 of the proposed Electrical Products (Safety) Regulation

14. The Chairman referred to the categories of organisations qualified to apply for recognition by DEMS as recognised certification bodies as set out in Schedule 3 of the proposed EPSR and asked for elaboration on the category of "An organisation which had been granted accreditation by an accreditation body". Mr UY explained that similar to the Hong Kong Laboratories Accreditation Scheme (HOKLAS) Executive in Hong Kong, overseas accreditation bodies recognised by the respective governments were empowered to grant accreditation to the certification bodies and testing laboratories in their countries. The HOKLAS Executive and the overseas accreditation bodies in granting accreditation would issue a certificate certifying that the body or laboratory concerned was qualified to issue certificates in respect of certain products. The HOKLAS Executive had mutual recognition agreements with a number of overseas accreditation bodies such as the American Association for Labratories Accreditation of USA and the United Kingdom Accreditation Service. Under the agreements, product certificates issued by organisations accredited by these accreditation bodies would be accepted by the HOKLAS Executive and vice versa. As regards the recognition to be granted by DEMS under section 9 of the proposed EPSR, Mr UY said that applying organisations under the abovementioned category would be granted recognition if the accreditation bodies which granted accreditation to the applying organisations had mutual recognition agreements with the HOKLAS Executive. He further clarified that in granting recognition to an organisation, DEMS would specify the class(es) of electrical products in respect of which the organization was qualified to issue certificates of safety compliance (CSCs).

15. Members referred to the list of local accredited testing laboratories and certification bodies under the HOKLAS and enquired which of these bodies provided testing and certification services in respect of electrical products. Mr UY advised that the Administration did not have comprehensive information on this at present. However, the Administration believed that as a matter of market mechanism, the future provision of the services would be adjusted as necessary to meet any increase in demand. He also remarked that a CSC from a local accredited testing laboratories or certification body would be required in respect of an electrical product supplied in Hong Kong only if all of the following conditions applied:

  1. the electrical product was one of the six prescribed products under Schedule 2 of the proposed EPSR;
  2. the concerned manufacturer had not been recognised by DEMS as qualified to issue a CSC in respect of the product; and
  3. no CSC in respect of the product had been issued by an overseas certification body which was also a certification body recognised by DEMS.

16. Members expressed concern that provision of local testing and certification services might not be adequate to facilitate suppliers to obtain the necessary CSCs for their products within the 12-month grace period after the enactment of the EPSR. They pointed out that the increase in demand for the testing services might not be met in a timely manner as acquisition of the necessary equipment and personnel for the testing services would take some time. They opined that it was important to ascertain if the services were adequate before the EPSR was enacted. After discussion, the Administration agreed to conduct a survey among the local accredited laboratories and certification bodies to see which of them were already equipped for the testing and certification services for the six prescribed products and to assess the extent of utilization of the testing services by considering the circumstances under which such services would be required e.g. if the products originated from a particular country.Admin

Electrical products to be prescribed under Schedule 2 of EPSR

17. The Administration took note of a member’s concern that electric fan heaters with red not heating elements and night lights were potentially dangerous electrical products and it might be appropriate to include them in Schedule 2 of the proposed EPSR.Admin

Date of next meeting

18. The next meeting was scheduled for 12 November 1996 at 4:30 pm.

(Post-meeting note: The next meeting was subsequently rescheduled for 28 November 1996 at 2:30 pm.)

III Any other business

19. The Chairman informed members that a radio association had expressed interest in meeting with the Bills Committee. She would further liaise with the Association in this regard.

20. The meeting ended at 10:30 am.
Legislative Council Secretariat

26 November 1996

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