A second mentally disabled man in a week has ended up in debt after being persuaded to sign contracts with a gym in Hong Kong.
The man, surnamed Sing, is now over HK$1 million in debt after agreeing to four contracts totalling more than HK$250,000 with the Fight Factory Gym Ltd. (FFG) center in Causeway Bay, Headline Daily reported Tuesday.
Sing works in a restaurant kitchen and earns HK$10,000 a month.
In April last year, he was persuaded to sign a HK$36,000 gym contract. Later, he signed three more contracts with FFG, bringing the total sum he had to pay to more than HK$253,000.
Sing borrowed HK$830,000 from three loan companies and financial intermediaries with the help of the gym’s staff, so as to pay off the credit card debt he incurred for the courses.
He used the flat in which he lives as collateral for the debt.
The financial intermediaries charged Sing HK$650,000 in handling fees and financial restructuring fees.
In September, one of the loan companies sued Sing for payment.
Sing was unable to speak for himself in court because of his disability.
He did not have a legal representative, as his legal aid application was still being processed.
The court ruled that Sing will need to repay the loan to the firm that sued him.
Sing is now being forced to auction off his flat, as he has no ability to repay the debt.
He said he trusted the gym’s staff, as they called him “bro”.
Sing’s aunt told the media he doesn’t have many friends, so he trusted the staff and signed the gym contracts that they placed before him.
FFG said in a statement Monday that, after learning of Sing’s special needs, the company had reached a mutual agreement with him mediated by the Consumer Council to refund fees it had charged him for classes he had not yet attended.
But the company emphasized that it had nothing to do with any personal debts incurred by him, Apple Daily reported.
Lawmaker Tang Ka-piu of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions has offered to help Sing, Headline Daily said.
Tang suspects that the staff of some gym centers and financial intermediaries work together on scams.
He said he has received information about 21 cases related to unfair trade practices of gym centers, a few of which are related to financial intermediaries and mentally disabled victims.
The Consumer Council said it has received 102 complaints related to gym centers during the first two months of this year, and a total of 577 similar complaints were made last year, an increase of 11 percent from the year before.
Last week, gym chain California Fitness was accused of forcing an autistic 18-year-old man to spend HK$90,000 for membership and training lessons.
California Fitness accused of forcing autistic man into debt (Mar. 29, 2016)
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