Warning on 'star' agencies

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 May, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 May, 1994, 12:00am

YOUNG people have been warned not to be tricked by model agencies who play on their desire to become stars.


The Consumer Council yesterday named a company which approached youngsters in streets, signed them up as ''artists'', asked them for up to $20,000 for managing and tuition fees, but did not give them jobs or training.


Man Mo-leung, chairman of the council's trade practices committee, said 12 complaints had been received from people aged between 20 and 28 since last July against Take-5 International Limited in Tsim Sha Tsui.


Would-be stars paid a total of $76,600 to the company which promised roles in advertising, movies, and as singers.


A contract fee of $1,800, $5,600 or $6,800 was demanded and some people paid an additional tuition fee of $6,800 to $11,000. One person paid more than $20,000 for the contract and tuition fees.


The company promised in the contract that it would provide a full refund if jobs could not be found within three months or if the fees paid could not be earned back within one year, according to the council.


But it turned out that the 12 complainants had never got any jobs or training.


The company said it had tried to contact the complainants without success, the council said.


On the advice of the council, seven people had taken their case to the Small Claims Tribunal which ruled in their favour. But the company had refunded only one person.


The company's office was closed yesterday. Staff said their boss was out of town and they could not comment.


Song writer Michael Lai Siu-tin was described in the company's advertisement as an organiser. But Mr Lai said he was only an investor in the company and was not involved in running the business.


Figures from the council show complaints against model agencies have increased in recent years.


It received 76 complaints in 1992, 85 last year, and 34 in the first four months of this year.


Mr Man warned teenagers to beware of strangers who accost them in the street and offer instant stardom.


''As summer vacation is fast approaching, school leavers seeking employment should be wary of bogus job offers.


''They should be extra careful if employment is conditional upon payment of fees usually on such a pretext as job training or purchase of products,'' he said.


Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups' deputy executive director Paul Chan Kam-cheung suggested teenagers get advice from parents, teachers and friends in hunting jobs.


He said youngsters should not go alone for interviews at model agencies.


Fifth-former Luke Chan said he had applied to the model agency to be a movie star five months ago but changed his mind when asked to pay $2,000 for tuition fee.


But yesterday he visited the company again with his classmates to try to seek a job as a production assistant.


''I know the company is said to always cheat people. But I have no choice. I have just finished the Hong Kong Certificate of Education examination and now have nothing to do. I need a job to kill time and earn money,'' he said.