Photo: The Consumer Council's website

The Consumer Council has raised concern over alleged malpractice by an employment agency, including prolonged hiring service, refusing to give refunds despite repeated failures to get workers hired and a claim that employers were deceived about the ability of a domestic worker during an interview.

The consumer watchdog received 200 complaints last year over the employment agency’s quality of service, according to a press release from the council.

In one case, a complainant selected an Indonesian worker who had stated in her résumé that she had experience in babysitting, could cook and had a good command of Cantonese.

When the complainant underwent a video interview to test the workers’ competence, the worker appeared to be able to communicate with simple Cantonese phrases and some English words.

The complainant was satisfied and paid $10,980 (US$1,398) on the spot to confirm the person would be hired.

However, when the worker started work in Hong Kong, she was unable to understand even basic work instructions, such as “laundry”, “cook” and “clean”, let alone engage in a conversation. Communication between the employer and the worker could only be done via a translation app.

The complainant was skeptical about the worker’s qualifications and language proficiency. Later he found out that the worker pretended she understood Cantonese, as she was given a translation of the questions and a pronunciation guide for the Cantonese answers from behind the camera.

In another case, one employer paid more than HK$10,000 upfront to the agency, which promises a “100% refund” if clients aren’t satisfied. But it was only when the employer failed to find a suitable worker that they realized that there are many terms and conditions that prevent a refund from being given.

The council said the complaints were so diverse that even after it intervened, they could not be satisfactorily resolved, Sky Post reported.

The council’s chief executive Gilly Wong said the authorities need to step up supervision and enforcement.

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