A director of a children's education and training company was sentenced to 14 days' imprisonment suspended for one year today (July 16) at Kowloon City Magistrates' Courts for failing to provide the required tutorial services after having accepted payments from consumers. He was convicted after trial earlier on June 25 for the offences of wrongly accepting payment in contravention of the Trade Descriptions Ordinance (TDO) and was ordered to compensate the two victims $6,733 in total.
Customs earlier received two complaints alleging that a children's education and training company failed to provide the required tutorial services and refused to refund after they had fully paid tuition fees for language courses at the Tsim Sha Tsui and Causeway Bay centres in December 2013 and February 2014 respectively. The language centres ceased operation a few weeks after having received their payments.
In December 2013, a complainant paid $6,830 on behalf of a student for attendance at a total of 26 classes of Spanish and Putonghua at the company's Tsim Sha Tsui centre. The complainant was informed by the company after the first class in early January 2014 that the Tsim Sha Tsui centre would be closed at the end of the month. The complainant could choose to attend the remaining classes at the Tsim Sha Tsui centre within the month or at the Causeway Bay centre. As the complainant had made clear at the time of registration that classes at the Causeway Bay centre would not be considered, the complainant arranged for the student to complete eight classes at the Tsim Sha Tsui centre in January and requested a refund of $4,333 for the remaining classes. However, the complainant's request was rejected.
At the beginning of February 2014, another complainant paid $2,400 for a student's attendance at eight classes of an English course at the company's Causeway Bay centre. The complainant was informed a few days before commencement of the course that it would be suspended. She requested a full refund but it was declined, and later found the centre no longer in operation.
Investigation by Customs revealed that since mid-2013, the company's Tsim Sha Tsui and Causeway Bay centres were in rent arrears. The landlords informed the company with court orders in late 2013 and early 2014 respectively requesting it to vacate the premises by the dates specified in January and February 2014. At the time of accepting payments from the complainants, the company should have had knowledge that the centres would no longer be in operation very soon and would be unable to continue providing the tutorial services.
Under the TDO, a trader who engages in relation to a consumer in a commercial practice that constitutes wrongly accepting payment for a product commits an offence. In this regard, a trader is prohibited from accepting payment if at the time of accepting payment the trader intends not to supply the product or intends to supply a materially different product, or there are no reasonable grounds for believing that the trader would be able to supply the goods or services. 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.
Ends/Thursday, July 16, 2015