Consumer protection in Hong Kong

Beware of unethical sales tactics in Hong Kong self-improvement classes, watchdog warns

Consumer Council notes case of local man paying three times tuition amount he intended after intense pressure from tutors

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 September, 2017, 9:00pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 September, 2017, 10:37pm

A Hong Kong man who enrolled in a tuition class was forced to pay HK$18,500 – nearly three times the amount he intended – in an unethical sales case highlighted by a city watchdog.

The Consumer Council warned of a city filled with unaccredited self-improvement classes focusing on personal growth and well-being while attracting clients through “undesirable sales tactics” and questions raised over instructors’ qualifications.

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Consumers are reminded that currently in Hong Kong there exists no single accreditation organisation on the quality of these tutorial courses,” said council chairman of publicity and community relations Professor Michael Hui King-man.

The content of such classes was abstract, he added, noting people would find it difficult to evaluate their usefulness and the instructors’ level of professional knowledge.

There exists no single accreditation organisation on the quality of these tutorial courses
Professor Michael Hui, Consumer Council

As this victim discovered, the experience can lead to huge monetary loss.

He enrolled in a self-improvement class expecting to pay HK$5,800 for five days. But on his final day, the tutor tried to persuade him to continue to phases two and three of the course. The man declined the offer, the council said.

At a later session, however, tutors and others claiming to be ex-students pressured him until he relented and paid a total of HK$18,500 in tuition fees. In response to the council’s enquiry, the company claimed the man had enrolled voluntarily and that it would not refund him.

A second case cited by the watchdog involved a tutor claiming to be a member of a local psychology association and possessing overseas qualifications.

A female student who paid HK$39,800 in tuition found the syllabus differed from the promotional materials and that the class only had four students.

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The teacher, who was not a member of the psychology association, used notes copied from the internet. Although the student sought the council’s help, the company did not respond and the council told her to seek legal advice.

Hui advised consumers to pay attention to “practical” considerations such as word-of-mouth descriptions of tutorials that are available in the market when contemplating enrolment.