Fitness centre scam busted

Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department officers have arrested 11 people over an alleged fitness centre scam.
The name of the centre has not been revealed, but Customs says the arrests are based on staff exerting high pressure sales tactics in selling memberships.
The arrests followed an investigation triggered by two complaints from customers of the centre.
The incidents were suspected to have constituted an offence of engaging in an aggressive commercial practice under the Trade Descriptions Ordinance (TDO).
Six men and five women, aged between 20 and 57, were arrested during the past three weeks. The case is still under investigation and those arrested have been released on bail.
“According to preliminary investigation, a customer was arranged to conduct a fitness test while he was enjoying a free trial at the fitness centre. He was asked to pay $1800 for the test when he refused to procure fitness club membership,” said the C&ED in a statement.”
“In another case, staff members coaxed the customer to sign a membership contract by claiming that the document was intended for arranging a free trial at the fitness centre. Subsequently, the customers paid $19,000 and $6500 for procuring three-year and one-year fitness membership respectively.”
The department says a trader commits an offence of engaging in an aggressive commercial practice 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 traders and people in the industry to abide by the law. Consumers, in particular youngsters, should pay extra attention in regard to free trials. In case of doubt, they should clarify with the trader to ensure that no supplementary charge is required.
“Consumers should be well aware of individual needs and affordability, and firmly refuse signing any sales documents if they have no intention to purchase the service,” the statement concluded.
Suspected cases can be reported to Customs on its 24-hour hotline: 2545 6182.

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