Two directors and an employee of an interior design and construction company have been arrested for unfair trade practices under the Trade Descriptions Ordinance.
A customer complained that the firm entered into an agreement for a home renovation project, the price of which was quoted at HK$170,000 (US$21,853), RTHK reported.
In the course of the project, however the company increased the fee in stages to a total of HK$790,000.
The customer coughed up HK$500,000 and filed a complaint with the Customs and Excise Department.
The department arrested the two men and a woman, aged between 46 and 47, in Ma On Shan.
They face charges of misleading omissions under the unfair trade practices provisions of the ordinance.
The victim approached the interior design firm in September to undertake a renovation project at his 800 square foot flat in Ma On Shan, Apple Daily reported.
He put his signature on nine quotations for a combined HK$170,000 along with 30 design drafts.
However, a line specifying “Other Items” on one of the quotations was left blank.
At the start of the renovation project, a male employee of the firm was enthusiastic in suggesting improvements on the original designs.
Later, the company started providing price quotes for certain tasks only after work on them had begun.
When the customer brought this up with the firm, he was told there was no alternative but to proceed with the new plans, as existing structures in the flat had been demolished.
A total of 218 new items were added to the original contract in the space of 45 days, bringing the total amount payable to HK$790,000.
The customer decided to terminate the contract after paying HK$500,000 and sought help from Customs and Excise.
The arrests are the first enforcement action taken in the interior and renovation sector under the amended ordinance after it came into effect in July 2013, public broadcaster RTHK reported.
Lai Ka-lok, head of the department’s unfair trade practices investigation group, was quoted by hk01.com as saying consumers should always confirm with service providers the total cost of a renovation project before work begins.
Payments should be made in installments according to an agreed schedule of progress, Lai said.
Consumers should also specify in the contract that they must first agree to any additional work before it begins.
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