Psychologists have warned people to beware of fraudsters who set up clinics without qualifications or training - but who cannot be prosecuted because of a legal loophole. The Hong Kong Psychological Society, launching its professional register yesterday, said charlatans were free to treat and charge any patients they could attract. The territory has no statutory register of psychologists, so practitioners cannot be 'struck off' for breaching ethics or being unqualified. Society past president Lu Chan Ching-chuen said the eight-month waiting time to see approved psychologists, growing demand and the lack of registration made the territory an easy market for bogus practitioners. 'Anyone can come here and open an elegant office in Central and people will think they must be qualified,' Ms Lu said. 'We did receive an inquiry from the Legal Department saying a member of the public had filed a complaint about someone calling himself a psychologist.' The society found the man had no psychological training but, as in several similar cases, it was unable to act. 'Unfortunately, seeing we are not statutory registered, we do not have any grounds to charge him. It's a pity the public is not protected,' Ms Lu said. Society president Dr Brian Scott said self-styled therapists could run tests incorrectly, giving false IQ readings which caused children to be sent to inappropriate schools, or wrongly diagnosing youngsters as autistic. 'They do not have to follow a code of ethics. They could have a sexual liaison with a patient. It's not against the law, but it could cause great damage,' Dr Scott said. 'If we had statutory registration, only qualified psychologists could call themselves psychologists.' The organisation has sent copies of its booklet, listing 102 society-registered psychologists, to government departments and libraries. 'The main purpose is so that the public . . . can go to the directory and find psychologists who have been approved by the Psychological Society. It's a way of quality control,' Dr Scott said. Complaints made against registered psychologists are examined by society members who determine whether a warning, reprimand or expulsion is warranted. But at least one practitioner threw a spanner in the works recently by resigning from the society while his complaint was under investigation, and continuing to work as a non-member. 'The society has gone as far as it can. It's up to the Government now,' Dr Scott said.