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Consumer protection in Hong Kong

‘Loud music, no phone, no ID card’: Hong Kong buyers report sales tactics of travel agent

Consumer Council received 48 complaints where young people were lured and pressured into buying same South Korean resort package

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 September, 2017, 3:28pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 September, 2017, 10:05pm

The Hong Kong consumer watchdog publicly named and shamed a local marketing agent of a South Korean resort on Tuesday over misleading and high-pressure sales tactics.

The Consumer Council said it received 48 complaints against Great Time Universal (HK) in the first eight months of the year – a surge of more than four times the number of cases reported against the same company last year.

Great Time Universal claimed to be the authorised agent of Vistacay Vacation Club in South Korea.

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On Tuesday, the agent could not be reached for comment and the Post found that its office in Tsim Sha Tsui was closed for business.

According to the council, complainants said they were forced to wait in a room filled with loud music and heavy beats, after their identity cards and credit cards were taken away for processing. They were also asked to switch off their phones.

“The practice is very unscrupulous and highly detrimental to consumer interests. And we have observed that things are getting more and more serious,” Gilly Wong Fung-han, the council’s chief executive, said.

Wong said the marketing agent would first make repeat cold calls to people and tell them to come down and collect a free five-day holiday package.

At the agent’s office, potential buyers were then told they could only qualify for the package if they signed up as a member of a South Korean resort by paying a fee of between HK$50,000 and HK$100,000.

According to the watchdog, staff members would also take turns to pressure buyers for two to five hours – in some cases beyond midnight – to sign the contract and pay the membership fee.

Complainants reported that they did not receive the promised holiday packages after paying for the membership.

In most cases, they were told by the agent that the resort was overbooked, and if they wanted to enjoy the packages soon, they would need to further upgrade their membership schemes.

The council has referred 10 of the cases to customs for further investigation of suspected violation of the Trade Descriptions Ordinance.

Many young people had been lured by the agent’s offer at the office, which promised a free one-week holiday at the South Korean resort every year after the membership fee was fully paid, Wong said.

In one case, the complainants even entered into a 17-year contract with the agent.

Some also yielded to the agent’s intimidating sales tactics because they were tired and wanted to get out of the room, Wong said.

A total of 75 complaints against the agent were received since 2015, involving HK$2.7 million.