Two employment agencies specialising in hiring domestic helpers are the first to be fined this year for overcharging their clients.
Ka Ying Employment Agency Limited, based in Cheung Sha Wan, and Marks Domestic Helper Agency Limited, located in Tsuen Wan, were both last week convicted for overcharging jobseekers.
According to the law, employment agencies (EAs) are not permitted to collect fees or charges other than the prescribed commission — 10 percent of the jobseeker’s first month’s salary — after successful placement.
It is widely known, however, that unscrupulous agencies often charge Hong Kong helpers thousands more dollars over several months, plunging them into debt.
Marks Domestic Helper Agency Limited was fined HKD30,000 at Tsuen Wan’s Magistrates’ Courts on Jan. 18 for overcharging two jobseekers. The Court also ordered the agency to refund placement fees of HKD4,209 to swindled helpers. Marks’ licence was cancelled when the accusations first came to light in April 2015.
This was followed on Jan. 20 by Ka Ying Employment Agency, which was fined HKD7,000 by Kowloon City Magistrates’ Courts and further ordered to refund excessive placement fees of HKD2,089 to one domestic helper. The Employment Agency Administration (EAA) first received a complaint against the agency in March 2015.
“We are glad that the FDH (foreign domestic helpers) concerned were willing to come forward to report their case to the EAA and act as prosecution witnesses,” a spokesman for the Labour Department (LD) said.
“[The Labour Department] will not tolerate any EAs overcharging jobseekers and will act promptly upon receipt of any complaints. Prosecution will be initiated when there is sufficient evidence and the Commissioner for Labour will consider revoking, or refusing to renew, an EA’s licence upon its conviction. Any jobseekers who suspect that they have been overcharged by EAs should report their case to the EAA as soon as possible and act as prosecution witness.”
Last year, nine domestic helper agencies in Hong Kong were fined for the same offence.
HelperChoice, a local domestic helper employment website that cuts out fees for jobseekers, told Coconuts HK, “It is great to see that something is done about overcharging. It is not easy to prosecute since the overcharging agencies don’t issue receipts and domestic workers have little proof.”