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Fitness centre staff arrested for pressure tactics

Hong Kong’s Customs and Excise Department has arrested four staff of a Hong Kong fitness centre after a complaint from a customer who claims a $38,000 10-year membership was charged to his credit card without authorisation.
C&ED launched an investigation into the unnamed gym after receiving a complaint against a salesperson “suspected of exerting undue influence in selling membership to a customer”.
The credit card charging incident was suspected to have constituted an offence of “engaging in an aggressive commercial practice” under the Trade Descriptions Ordinance (TDO).
After follow-up investigation, the C&ED took enforcement action since the end of July resulting in the arrests of three women and one man, aged between 35 and 59. The case is still under investigation and the arrested persons have been put on police bail.
The C&ED says a trader commits an offence of engaging in aggressive commercial practices under the TDO “if he or she uses harassment, coercion or undue influence to impair the consumer’s freedom of choice or conduct in relation to a product which causes or is likely to cause the consumer to make a transactional decision”.
The maximum penalty upon conviction is a fine of $500,000 and imprisonment for five years. The management staff will also be liable if the offence is committed with their consent or connivance or is attributed to their neglect.
“The C&ED reminds consumers to be fully aware of individual needs and affordability, and to firmly refuse to sign any documents if they have no intention to purchase a service. Before making a transactional decision, consumers should not casually provide an identity card or credit card to any salesperson for protection of their own rights,” it said in a statement.

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