Hong Kong: Social media marketing of financial products - Know your obligations

Last Updated: 3 October 2012

By Charmaine Koo , Jane McBride , Georgina Law , Karen Chan and June Lau

There is an increasing global trend for financial institutions to build brand identity and market their services and products via different social media outlets such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn. In Hong Kong, the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) regulates the marketing and advertising of financial products under the Securities and Futures Ordinance and its subsidiary legislation. However, the issues arising from the marketing of financial products using social media are not specifically addressed.

Has the SFC issued any specific guidance on social media?

In short, no. The SFC issued a Guidance Note on Internet Regulation in March 1999 (Guidance Note) which makes it clear that advertising / marketing regulation in Hong Kong applies irrespective of the medium of communication or delivery, whether it is paper-based or electronic, and that the issue is whether such communication is aimed at investors in Hong Kong or is detrimental to the interests of the investing public in Hong Kong.

In assessing whether electronic communications may be aimed at investors in Hong Kong, some of the following factors may be taken into account:

  1. whether the information is targeted via internet "push" technology (where the communication is initiated by the publisher) to Hong Kong investors; and
  2. whether the information provided over the internet appears to target Hong Kong residents (such as references to HK dollars; the use of the Chinese language or publication of the internet address where such information can be accessed).

The Guidance Note, available via the link below, also sets out additional operational measures which the SFC expects intermediaries to comply with when conducting business over the internet:

http://en-rules.sfc.hk/net_file_store/new_rulebooks/h/k/ HKSFC3527_3568_VER11.pdf

In April 2003, the SFC issued the Collective Investment Schemes Internet Guidance Note, which mentions that internet "banners" which amount to product advertisements require SFC authorisation.

As social media facilitate marketing over the internet, these two guidance notes should be considered in any social media marketing of financial products.

Are there any general social media laws in Hong Kong?

No. However, the following laws, although not specifically related to social media, will apply to the use of social media:

(i) Intellectual Property Laws

Intellectual property laws include the Copyright Ordinance and the Trade Marks Ordinance, as well as the common law tort of passing off. Generally, like the Guidance Note, these Hong Kong laws only apply in respect of unlawful acts committed in Hong Kong. All relevant factors will be taken into consideration in determining whether the relevant act was done in Hong Kong, including whether the advertisement is aimed at or intended for Hong Kong consumers, the language of the advertisement and whether the products and / or services offered in the advertisement are supplied to consumers in Hong Kong.

(ii) Misrepresentation and Defamation

The content of an advertisement (generally or in social media) is subject to the law of misrepresentation in Hong Kong. A misrepresentation is a false statement of fact which is relied on by the person to whom the statement is made when entering into a contract or a legally binding transaction.

An entity may also be liable under defamation laws in Hong Kong for publishing or authorising the publishing of or distributing defamatory marketing material via social media outlets.

(iii) Consumer Protection

The Trade Descriptions Ordinance prohibits the application of false trademarks, false trade descriptions in respect of goods and services, misleading omissions, aggressive commercial practices, bait advertising and bait-and-switch tactics. However, products and services supplied and regulated under the Securities and Futures Ordinance, the Banking Ordinance, the Insurance Companies Ordinance and the Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Ordinance will be excluded from the operation of this ordinance once the Trade Descriptions (Unfair Trade Practices) (Amendment) Ordinance 2012 comes into effect.

(iv) Trade Promotion

Companies which intend to promote, organise, conduct or manage competitions or other similar projects to promote their business or products are subject to the requirements of the Gambling Ordinance in Hong Kong. Accordingly, it is necessary to obtain a Trade Promotion Competition Licence in order to organise and conduct a trade promotion competition in Hong Kong.

(v) Guidelines and Manuals

The Hong Kong Consumer Council and the Association of Accredited Advertising Agencies of Hong Kong have issued guidelines and best practice manuals. Please refer to the below links for further information.

http://www.consumer.org.hk/website/ws_en/competition_issues/ model_code/list.html


(vi) Unsolicited Commercial Electronic Messages

In Hong Kong, the sending of commercial electronic messages with a "Hong Kong link" is regulated under the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Ordinance. Therefore, if the sender or the recipient of a commercial electronic message is located in Hong Kong, the Ordinance will apply. As the Ordinance is quite complex, a Code of Practice has been issued by the Office of the Communications Authority and this can be accessed by the link below.


Do the existing financial product marketing regulations apply to social media?

Yes. The SFC has stated that the provisions of the Securities and Futures Ordinance relating to the advertisement, offering and dealing in funds apply equally to activities conducted over the internet. Thus, the sending of marketing materials over the internet (including all social media outlets) will be subject to these same restrictions as well as those in the various codes issued by the SFC.

Have there been any enforcement cases in Hong Kong regarding the misuse of social media in the financial sector?

Yes, in December 2011 an unlicensed individual was convicted for advising on securities through social media. Lo Kam Chung was fined and given a community service order of 80 hours for providing securities advice to subscribers to a private discussion group he had set up on Facebook between April and November 2010.

The SFC recognises that entities may use "social media – including YouTube, Twitter and Facebook – to attract investors by creating the appearance of legitimacy". Given the growing popularity of social media strategies for financial institutions, the SFC may in the future consider issuing guidance notes and heavy penalties specifically in relation to the misuse of social media in the context of marketing financial products and / or services.

Please click here to view or download this publication.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.