A private eye turned martial-art instructor was fined HK$30,000 by a Kwun Tong court today for falsely describing his private detective company on the firm's website.
The prosecution of Chan Yung-chuen was the first of a service provider under the Trade Descriptions Ordinance since it was extended to cover both goods and services last year.
Chan, 30, pleaded guilty to offering a service to a consumer to which a false description was applied.
Huo Zhuolin, Chan’s 27-year-old business partner, had pleaded not guilty and the charges against her were dismissed as the prosecution offered no evidence on the case.
The court heard the two had advertised inflated claims on their website including falsely stating they opened for business as far back as 1985.
The company website also claimed they had “over 30 years” of detective experience and had made investigations planned and led by former police officers.
The World of Detective Company was in fact founded by the two in May 2008 and neither they nor their three employees had any affiliation with the Hong Kong police.
Chan’s defence claimed he had helped many people through his work as a private detective and had consulted a friend who worked in the police but who was not an employee.
They said the company had been shut in February and its website is no longer accessible.
The court heard that Chan had no previous criminal record and was now working as a taekwondo instructor in Tin Shui Wai for a salary of just HK$5,000 a month.
Chan expressed remorse and said he would not commit the offence again.
Handing down the fine, Principal Magistrate Ernest Lin Kam-hung said it was a light penalty as it was the first case of its kind and not a severe example of using a false description.
But he added the sentence could not be used as a precedent for future penalties.
Lin said using false descriptions to sell products could cause consumers to incur financial losses, which could affect their well-being.
In a statement, the customs department reminded traders to comply with the statutory requirements of the ordinance.
The department said it would closely monitor suspected violations of the ordinance and would take appropriate enforcement action against traders adopting unfair trade practices in the sale of goods or services.
Under the ordinance, any service provider convicted of using false descriptions is liable to a fine of HK$500,000 and five years in jail.