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Employment agency convicted of overcharging foreign domestic helper
     A licensee of an employment agency (EA) was convicted and fined a total of $16,600 at Eastern Magistrates' Courts today (November 27) for overcharging two foreign domestic helpers (FDHs). The Court also ordered the licensee to refund the excessive placement fee of a total amount of $8,300 to the FDHs concerned.
     In August 2017, the Employment Agencies Administration (EAA) of the Labour Department (LD) received a complaint from two FDHs against Chun Hing Agency (Chun Hing) (located in Sham Shui Po) for overcharging of commission. The FDHs concerned agreed to assist in the investigation, which revealed sufficient evidence to show that Chun Hing had collected excessive placement fees from the FDHs. Consequently the LD decided to take out prosecution against the agency. 
     According to the law, EAs are not allowed to collect from job-seekers any fees or charges other than the prescribed commission, which is set at no more than 10 per cent of the latter's first month's salary upon successful placement.
     Chun Hing's licence had already been revoked in September this year when it was found to have withheld passports from job-seekers without reasonable excuse, which contravened the Code of Practice for Employment Agencies (the Code). The Commissioner for Labour thus was satisfied that the licensee was not a fit and proper person for operating an EA.
     This is the seventh conviction under Part XII of the Employment Ordinance (EO) this year. Apart from Chun Hing, another person was convicted and fined $1,500 earlier for operating and managing an EA (named Ching Ling Employment Agency located at North Point) at a place other than the place of business as specified in its EA licence. Three other EAs named Gracefield Employment Service Limited (located in Tsim Sha Tsui), Enoch Employment Agency (located in Wan Chai) and Blessings Employment Agency (located in Mong Kok), were convicted of unlicensed operation of an EA, whereas an EA named Java Maid Recruitment Service (located in Causeway Bay) was convicted of overcharging job seekers. There was also a case where a person was convicted of operating an EA without a valid licence in Mong Kok.
     The LD reminds EAs to operate in full compliance with the law at all times. Failure to do so may lead to prosecution and possible revocation of licences.
     EAs are also reminded to comply with the Code, which was promulgated on January 13. The Code sets out the salient legislative requirements which EA operators must observe in their businesses, as well as the minimum standards which the Commissioner for Labour expects of EA licensees. The EAA will conduct regular and surprise inspections at EAs and issue warning letters on EAs' contraventions of the Code for rectification of irregularities detected. The Commissioner may exercise his power under section 53(1)(c)(v) of the EO, if satisfied that the licensee concerned is not a fit and proper person to operate an EA, to refuse to issue or to renew, or even to revoke, an EA's licence. 
     In addition, the Government has introduced an Amendment Bill into the Legislative Council, under which it proposes to raise the penalty for the offence of overcharging job-seekers from the current maximum fine of $50,000 to a maximum fine of $350,000 and imprisonment of three years, so as to raise the deterrence effect. The Bill also proposes to extend the criminal liability of the overcharging offence to cover certain persons associated with the licensee, including the management of EAs and persons employed by the EAs. Job-seekers will be afforded better protection upon the passage of the Bill.
     For enquiries or complaints about unlicensed operation, on overcharging job-seekers' commission by EAs or concerning the Code, please call the EAA of the LD at 2115 3667, or visit its office at unit 906, 9/F, One Mong Kok Road Commercial Centre, 1 Mong Kok Road, Kowloon.
Ends/Monday, November 27, 2017
Issued at HKT 18:55
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