Dodgy schools, TV sales slammed

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 May, 2010, 12:00am

People should think twice before joining a course subsidised by the government's Continuing Education Fund and avoid being misled by schools into unsuitable programmes, the Consumer Council says.

The council cited the case of a mainland immigrant who knew no English other than the 26 letters of the alphabet, who sought help from the watchdog last year.

She was talked into joining an oral English course subsidised by the fund. A course provider told her she would receive a HK$10,000 subsidy if she fulfilled attendance requirements, but did not mention that only those who passed a final examination were eligible. Worried that she might not make the grade, the student expressed her concerns to the provider who said she could take a test before joining the course and only people who were up to standard were accepted.

After failing to answer several questions, the woman was told she had been accepted as a student for a 'pre-nursery' class. The complainant then paid in full for the course by credit card.

Although she attended all the classes, she failed the exam and did not get the subsidy. The school did not respond to a Consumer Council inquiry about the woman's plight.

In another two cases, both complainants were kept in the dark about conditions they had to fulfil to qualify for government subsidies.

One, a youth under 18, enrolled in a tourism course. He was not told he was too young to qualify for a subsidy earmarked for people aged 18 or over. He discovered his ineligibility when he applied for the subsidy after the course, on the advice of school staffers.

Consumers should discount verbal promises, the council said. Instead, people should check if courses were recognised by the Continuing Education Fund, details of which were available on

Complaints against pay television service sales practices surged on the eve of the World Cup, the council said.

From January to March, the council received 132 complaints, a 154 per cent increase on the same period last year.

Unscrupulous sales tactics used by pay television sales staff were similar to ones used by people selling digital TV set-top boxes, it said.

Salespeople claimed people could no longer watch free TV if they did not join a pay-TV service plan. Or they talked people into falsely believing that subscription to such plans was free or at very low prices.

However, a Cable TV spokeswoman said the company had not received more complaints in the first quarter this year, compared to last year. Both that station and Now TV said their sales systems involved a double-checking process. A quality control team double-checked all deals reached by frontline staff and clients. A spokeswoman for Now TV said all fees were specified in contracts and all staff wore a staff card and their records could be traced.