Laws against pyramid schemes are inadequate, say angry victims

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 June, 2009, 12:00am

Democrats chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan has called for laws against pyramid schemes to be upgraded, saying the party had received hundreds of complaints in the past year.

Police said yesterday that no one had been charged over pyramid schemes since 2007.

Some victims told the party their complaints had not been taken seriously by authorities. With the help of the Democratic Party, about 10 of them held a protest at police headquarters in Wan Chai yesterday to call for an immediate review of the relevant laws.

Among the protesters was Cheung Lan-chow, 71, who said he and two family members lost more than HK$1 million after they joined a team selling Lampe Berger, a fragrance product, in 2004. As a result, they had been forced to sell three properties.

Mr Cheung said attending lessons provided by the distribution company alone cost him more than HK$40,000. 'If you didn't attend the lessons, the superiors would pick on you. There was a lot of pressure on us,' he said.

He said he had suffered from depression as a result of the experience, but was recovering now.

Another protester, Hui Shuk-ping, said her 19-year-old daughter had borrowed HK$90,000 to buy products from the company.

Ms Hui said she had suspected her daughter was being swindled and took her to a police station. Officers told them that although it was likely she was being cheated, they could do nothing as the girl had joined the scheme voluntarily.

Mr Ho said: 'We urge the police to conduct a review of this legislation and seriously investigate these pyramid sales cases.'

The Lampe Berger office in Macau was forced to shut after a law against pyramid schemes took effect in June last year.

Lampe Berger Hong Kong did not reply yesterday when allegations were put to the company that its sales teams were involved in pyramid schemes and deceptive practices.

Police said they constantly liaised with the Department of Justice, the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau, and the Consumer Council in reviewing the law against such offences.