Customs officers arrested the owner of fitness chain Physical Fitness & Beauty along with his wife and two executives after a customer complained that a saleswoman forced her to sign a 10-year membership costing HK$38,000 (US$4,900), Ming Pao Daily reported on Thursday.
Those arrested were owner Luk Ngai-keung and his wife Ho Yuk-wah, who are both directors of the fitness center, along with a manager and a sales executive. They have been released on bail.
The arrests were made by the Customs and Excise Department’s Unfair Trade Practice Investigation Group, which was established last year.
According to Andy Hui Wai-ming, the group’s superintendent, the alleged victim said a saleswoman for the fitness center forced her to sign a membership contract even after she repeatedly told her that she already owned a 10-year membership at the chain’s branch in Mong Kok.
After being rejected, the saleswoman asked for the victim’s Hong Kong ID and credit cards, claiming they would be used to check for discounts.
However, the saleswoman used the cards to complete the transaction without the customer’s permission, the complainant said.
The saleswoman later returned the cards and asked her “in a coercive tone” to sign a 10-year membership contract.
After being forced to sign the document, the alleged victim filed a complaint with the Customs and Excise Department.
Under the Trade Descriptions Ordinance, a trader commits an offence of engaging in aggressive commercial practices if he or she uses harassment, coercion or undue influence to impair the consumer’s freedom of choice.
The maximum penalty upon conviction is a fine of HK$500,000 and imprisonment for five years.
The fitness center, established in 1986, has 60 branches and 500,000 members across Hong Kong.
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