Hong Kong's Miramar Travel agency fined for overcharging customers after cut in fuel surcharge
Company offered discounts of only HK$800 per person when the reduction was HK$1,839
A travel agency and its deputy manager were fined a total of HK$18,000 on Tuesday for failing to inform customers about a reduction in the cargo fuel surcharge.
West Kowloon Court also ordered Miramar Travel and its deputy operation manager Thomas Chan Hei-shing to pay more than HK$14,000 in compensation.
The company was found guilty of misleading omissions under the Trade Descriptions Ordinance – the first registered travel agency to be convicted since the legislation was amended in 2013.
It denied four summons during a trial earlier, while Chan, 54, denied four criminal charges of misleading omissions.
They failed to inform four customers that the fuel surcharge for their Emirates flights had been reduced by HK$1,839 per person when the four signed up for a tour in April 2014, the court found.
Instead, they and their travel companions were each given a HK$800 discount in what the company labelled an “all inclusive package”.
Deputy magistrate Andrew Mok Tze-chung found each found guilty of three offences. Handing down his verdict, he rejected their suggestions that the difference in surcharge had not been important enough a factor to sway the four before they made their decision.
“The fuel surcharge is a piece of vital information concerning the price,” he said. But no one at the agency had told three of the four complainants about the drop in surcharge before acquiring their “informed consent”.
Invoices and documents issued to Tsoi Yuk-king, Mok Kiu-tung and Pun Ying-wai still showed the price of the fuel surcharge at HK$2,839, even though it had been cut to HK$1,000.
But the magistrate acquitted both on the charge concerning the remaining complainant, Tsoi Mei-wah, who failed to see the same clauses in her invoices and documents.
In mitigation, barrister Kwan Tong-lee said the agency actually lost more than HK$20,000 in making their tour possible because only 10 people had signed up.
Kwan urged the magistrate not to grant the compensation order the prosecution requested – a suggestion that prompted Mok to question the agency’s remorse, but he accepted the defendants’ omissions were not deliberate.
He therefore fined the agency and manager each HK$9,000 and ordered the former to pay a total of HK$14,712 in compensation.