Flat-hunters who believe they have been discriminated against by estate agents on the grounds of race have been encouraged to complain. But the industry's licensing body admitted its powers to act against the practice exposed yesterday by a Sunday Morning Post investigation were limited, and the Equal Opportunities Commission said there was nothing it could do. Yeung Ka-sing, chairman of the Estate Agent Authority's licensing committee, said a new regime to come into force at the beginning of next year would cut the opportunities to offer customers different treatment. The Sunday Morning Post surveyed seven agents on two estates visited by customers who were identical apart from their ethnic backgrounds. It showed some companies offered poorer service to customers from the Indian subcontinent, and that almost all offered better service to European customers than to Chinese. Despite the new rules, Mr Yeung said race discrimination would not be covered. 'I believe that this is a case that can be dealt with by the Equal Opportunities Commission rather than by a particular authority like the EAA.' The new regulations would, however, reduce agents' ability to offer bad service or mislead their clients, he believed. For instance, the rules would prevent agents who advertised a flat from falsely claiming that it was already let if they did not approve of a customer because of his race. The authority was also encouraging agents to get written instructions from landlords that would set out the requirements for tenants. However, he conceded that if a landlord gave written instruction to, say, ban tenants from being Japanese then 'this would be totally out of our jurisdiction'. Mr Yeung said he believed some landlords did discriminate on the grounds of race, but that estate agents had a financial interest in helping anyone who could lead to a commission so there was no need to make regulations. 'If they turn customers down, they are stupid. 'There is no point in putting in rules that they shouldn't pick cherries.' In the Post test, the difference in treatment would have been invisible to the customer unless they compared notes with another. In one case a Pakistani customer was offered just two flats, both very different from his requirement, while a European an hour later was offered four different and better units. Louisa Sum Kwok-fong, chairman of the Society of Hong Kong Real Estate Agents, encouraged anyone who experienced discrimination by any of her members to ring its office. The society groups about 100 agencies, including most of the large chains, and its office number is 2575 1260.