The Consumer Council says it received 20 complaints between January to July this year about freight shipping services from Hong Kong, due to storage charges incurred because of delayed sailings.

Hong Kong International Airport travel immigration emigration
Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

This compares to just three complaints about freight shipping in the whole of last year.

Posing as a customer wishing to emigrate to the UK, Consumer Council staffers made enquiries with 15 overseas moving companies and announced the findings on Monday. The prices quoted for 220 cubic feet ranged from HK$20,000 to HK$50,000, with door-to-door shipping time varying between six weeks to five months.

Investigators were quoted between HK$50,000 and HK$134,000 for sending 500 cubic feet from Hong Kong to Toronto.

Most of the companies said shipping schedules for the next two months were either full or could not be guaranteed due to delays. Only one company, Seven Seas, said its shipping dates remain normal, the Consumer Council’s CHOICE report said.

Hong Kong International Airport travel immigration emigration
File Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

Five of the companies said they would charge customers for additional storage time if shipping was delayed, while three said they would waive storage fees if the delays did not exceed two to four weeks. Six of the companies refused to say whether any storage fee would be charged. One company did not respond to enquiries.

‘Astronomical’ storage costs

Among the contracts reviewed by the council, 11 companies stated that they retain the right unilaterally to change their quoted prices. Verbal promises of delivery time may also not be legally binding, the council warned. “The shipment could potentially be delayed for several months, incurring astronomical cost,” a council statement noted.

cargo ship
A cargo ship. Photo: Alexander Bobrov/Pexels.

One consumer, Ms Chan, complained that a company asked for an extra HK$12,800 in fees on top of almost HK$34,000 already paid in full, with the demand being made after her cargo had been stranded in Hong Kong for over seven weeks.

The company initially declined to indicate an expected delivery date, and told her two and a half months after her cargo had been picked up in Hong Kong that storage would cost HK$2,400 a month.

The additional fees were ultimately waived after she filed a complaint with the Consumer Council in March.

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Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.