A survey showed that many employment agencies were overcharging domestic workers. Photo: MFMW

Seven out of 10 Hong Kong employment agencies overcharge the commissions they take from maids, the Students Against Fees and Exploitation (Safe) found in a covert survey.

Australian-Vietnamese Johnson Phan, a Safe member, said he was disappointed that such exploitation was still happening in Hong Kong. He said he hoped the government would take action to stop it.

Safe is a group led by three Australian exchange students at University of Hong Kong.

Since last October, some domestic workers, equipped with secret cameras provided by Safe, visited more than 100 recruitment agencies asking each one how much they charged in fees to find a new employer, HK01.com reported.

Safe found about 70% of the agencies polled had overcharged domestic helpers, with most of asking for HK$6,000 (US$770) to HK$8,000 in commissions, which exceeded the legal limit of HK$431, or 10% of the maid’s monthly income of HK$4,310, by up to 17 times.

In May 2016, the Employment Agencies Administration (EAA) of the Labour Department received complaints from two foreign domestic workers against Jen’s Employment Agency Limited in Tsuen Wan in New Territories, for overcharging maids. 

Following the department’s investigation, the agency was convicted and fined HK$26,000 at Tsuen Wan Magistrates’ Courts on November 24.

This was the ninth conviction last year under the Employment Ordinance relating to overcharging or unlicensed operations and was also the second conviction against Jen’s for overcharging maids.

On February 21 this year, the department revoked Jen’s license, a statement on the government website said. 

In the same month, the Labor Department proposed in a Legislative Council subcommittee to amend the ordinance to increase the maximum penalty against employment agencies that overcharged maids from a HK$50,000 fine to HK$350,000, and a three-year sentence.

Domestic, workers who are overcharged by employment agencies, can call the EAA on 2155 3667 or visit its office at unit 906, 9/F, One Mong Kok Road Commercial Centre, 1 Mong Kok Road, Kowloon, the Labor Department website said.