【Local】Hong Kong craves medical beauty regulations
Medical cosmetology has been growing fast in Hong Kong with increasing number of medical beauty companies raising funds from the stock market to expand in the past few years. However, the lack of rules and regulations in this booming sector is not just a problem of consumers but will also hamper the development of the industry.
Listing in 2016, Modern Beauty (919) is the first Hong Kong-listed medical beauty company, followed by Perfect Medical (1830), DR REBORN（2138）and others. Modern Beauty’s latest interim report showed that the company’s net profit for six months ended 30 September 2016 more than tripled at HK$17.2 million, comparing with the same period of 2015. As for DR REBORN, which had been involved in medical malpractice before getting a listing in 2016, posted a 21.4% increase in revenue to HK$407.6 million for six months ended 30 September 2016.
Recent research of the industry
Unlike Korea, Mainland China, Singapore, Taiwan, UK, and some areas in the USA, Hong Kong lacks of specific laws and competency requirements to regulate medical beauty services, according to a Hong Kong consumer council research published last December. The research, Consumer Protection of Medical Beauty Services, found that only general consumer protection ordinance exists, while there is no specific ordinance regulating the industry. It said Hong Kong lacks of consumer protection in this area, including specific advertisements regulations, compulsory revealing information, compelling cool-off period and specific grievance mechanism.
Problems occurred and caught costumer’s attention
Serious and even fatal medical beauty accidents have been reported in Hong Kong in the past decade. Daisy Cheung, Assistant Professor of Law Faculty of Hong Kong University cited two possible reasons - consumers generally know little about the risk of surgery and the lack of regulations may see operators incline to cut cost to boost profits.
Gillian Zhao, a key opinion leader, did laser hair removal surgery in Hong Kong said when she was considering conduct the surgery in beauty salon or hospital, she mainly paid attention to three elements, the beauty clinic should be of certain size, they need to provide a safe environment and you should choose the highest price tag affordable. For herself, simple procedures and convenience without queue urged her to choose beauty salon instead of hospital. “Due to the eye-dazzling development of the cosmetic industry, consumers have to sharpen their eyes when make such a decision,” Gillian added.
Urgent need of clear definition in the air
Medical beauty services are regarded as “through medical methods, knowledge or technology to improve the appearance”. The consumer council’s recent research shows that in the beauty industry, it is widely accepted that both beauticians and doctors can operate the surgery, while HK College of Dermatologists Limited and HK Medical Association think only doctors can provide the services. It is necessary to have legislative ways to define what are medical beauty services, otherwise, it will be difficult to distinguish beauty services and medical beauty services. As a consequence, it will be really hard to manage risk, control quality and examine regulations.
Lack of regulations can be the most serious problems.
According to the Consumer Council, 98.8 % of the respondents who used to have medical beauty services, are willing to have medical beauty services in Hong Kong. Not only there was a lack of rules to regulate this industry and consumer protection laws were also few in this area, Cheung said. She said that Hong Kong Consumer Council suggested providing consumers with a “cooling-off period”. However, she also said the government should take operators’ livelihood and Hong Kong’s free market image into consideration when formulating related regulations and laws.
Difficulties and solutions in HK
DR REBORN Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer, Gabriel Lee said it was not easy to survive in medical beauty industry, which faced challenges including disordered regulations, government’s supervision of doctors, advanced equipment import and consumers’ need of professional training of beautician.
The government has submitted to lawmakers that they wanted to classify medical devices into four categories according to risk in order to eliminate unscrupulous practices in the beauty sector. However, from the proposal to become law could take a real long time as it involves a lot of vested interest and has to balance the interests between consumers’ and beauty salons, which are mostly medium to small enterprises.
Nowadays, more and more companies are jumping into this cosmetic surgery business. Overstated advertisements and problematic ways of selling also post challenges to the industry. The Consumer Council believes that Hong Kong needs to come up with a way to monitor the industry to ensure consumer security and make this industry developing healthily.
Cheung believed the future of this rapidly developing industry would improve a lot after the introduction of related policies. Although there will be some short term pressure on the companies, for instance, rising expenses and reducing customers, the moves of the government to regulate this industry won’t hurt business in the long run.
Under the government proposal, 20 types of medical devices will be classified into four types according to risk. Machines, such as short-wave hair removal, considered to be low risk will fall in type 4 and can be operated by non-medical practitioners. Type 3 devices users must complete related training. Type 2 devices must be used either by a doctor or supervised by a doctor. Only doctors can operate type 1 machines.
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