Date
13 December 2017
Consumer Council chief executive Gilly Wong (right) and research and testing panel head Prof. Wong Kam-fai reveal the results of a study on food ordering platforms. Photo: HKEJ
Consumer Council chief executive Gilly Wong (right) and research and testing panel head Prof. Wong Kam-fai reveal the results of a study on food ordering platforms. Photo: HKEJ

Ordering food from e-platforms? Consumer Council issues caveat

There is no doubt the booming online food ordering platforms allow consumers who do not feel like eating out to enjoy the convenience of home delivery, but the prices charged by most of the operators are clearly higher than what the quality of their services and food items should command, the Consumer Council says.

As more and more Hongkongers are using such platforms to save time and enjoy a wide range of choices – from humble street food curry fishballs to fancy French cuisine – the consumer watchdog made a total of 91 purchases from nine food ordering platforms in September to find out whether their higher prices are justified.

The food items were ordered from five aggregate food platforms and four eatery chain platforms including UberEATS, Foodpanda, Deliveroo, honestbee, KFC and McDelivery.

Unveiling the results on Wednesday, the council said more than six in ten food items it ordered were between 3 and 86 percent more expensive than takeaways at restaurants, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

In the case of McDelivery’s Apple Pie à la Mode, the takeaway price was only HK$11 but it went up to HK$20.5 when ordered through the platform, a markup of as much as 86 percent.

The platforms also charged between HK$15 and HK$150 for delivery, the survey showed.

Despite the surcharges, however, some of the platforms were not able to deliver the orders on time.

The survey found the delay could be as long as 51 minutes. UberEATS, the food delivery arm of car-hailing service provider Uber, had the worst performance in this regard; its punctuality rate was only 20 percent with a 20-minute delay on average.

In one case, the order was not confirmed even after a lapse of two hours, and it turned out later that the restaurant concerned had already closed down.

Worse, some of the platforms made wrong deliveries. For example, the order was for Japanese instant noodles with multiple ingredients, but plain cooked rice was delivered.

Professor Wong Kam-fai, chairman of the council’s research and testing committee, said three in ten food items ordered had problems in terms of temperature (e.g., pizza turning cold, sushi becoming warm and ice cream melting) while another 30 percent of the items were found toppled over leaking food gravy.

The council suggested that consumers make sure they know how much they have to pay before ordering food from e-platforms so they can decide for themselves whether they are willing to pay more for the convenience of the service.

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TL/JC/CG

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