23rd September 2022 – (Hong Kong) A male salesperson of a fitness centre was convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for 21 months and 27 days at the District Court yesterday for conspiracy to engage in aggressive commercial practices in the course of selling fitness services, in contravention of the Trade Descriptions Ordinance (TDO).
The imprisonment involved is the heaviest penalty imposed among cases of a similar nature since the TDO was amended in July 2013. Hong Kong Customs welcomes the sentence, which has achieved a considerable deterrent effect with the record-breaking imprisonment sentence reflecting the seriousness of the offence.
Customs in 2019 received information alleging that staff members of a fitness centre in Mong Kok had, in the course of selling fitness services, engaged in aggressive commercial practices by coercing a customer who had a lesser behavioral competence to procure fitness services amounting to about $900,000, which was a record amount for unfair trade practice cases involving the fitness industry.
Since 2018, Customs has mounted a series of special operations to combat unfair trade practices among fitness centres of engaging in aggressive commercial practices in the course of selling fitness services. Coupled with the deterrent effect imposed by the sentences pronounced by the court for relevant cases, reports related to aggressive commercial practices by fitness centres received by Customs have dropped significantly in recent years, from 482 in 2019 to eight in the first eight months of 2022.
Although there has been a downtrend in the number of reports against fitness centres, Customs will remain vigilant and follow up proactively whenever a report is received. The department will take resolute enforcement actions should there be any cases of violation of the TDO and will not tolerate any illegal acts, in particular when disadvantaged or vulnerable consumer groups are involved.
Customs reminds traders to comply with the requirements of the TDO while consumers should procure services from reputable shops.
Under the TDO, any trader commits an offence of engaging in aggressive commercial practices if harassment, coercion or undue influence is used to impair the consumer’s freedom of choice or conduct in relation to the product concerned, causing the consumer to make a transactional decision. The maximum penalty upon conviction is a fine of $500,000 and imprisonment for five years.
Members of the public may report any suspected violation of the TDO to Customs’ 24-hour hotline 2545 6182 or its dedicated crime-reporting email account ([email protected]).