POLO Suspends HK Agent Charging HK$12,500 Fee to Filipina Helper

An employment agency based in Hong Kong has been ordered suspended by the Philippine Overseas Labor Office for its role as a sub agent to another agency that allegedly charged a newly-arrived Filipina domestic helper HK$12,500 as “placement fee.”

In a meeting with Labor Attache Nida Romulo on August 19, a representative of the agency returned HK$5,000 of the HK$7,500 that Filipina Olga Pereira already paid, and handed back her passport.

The labor official did not name the agency that allowed its name to be used in Pereira’s contract, the helper named it as Top Wealth Employment Agency, which has its offices in Blissful Building on Des Voeux Road, Central.

The owner of Vast Sky Employment Ltd, which placed Pereira in Hong Kong on Apr 11, did not show up at the Polo meeting.

“We suspended the processing of contracts from that agency (Top Wealth) on the very day the worker came here to file a complaint,” said Romulo in an interview. “It acted as a sub-agent and the owner knows that is against the undertaking that it had signed with Polo,” she said.

Romulo did not disclose the length of suspension, saying that will be determined by her superiors. She added that workers who are overcharged by agencies should not be afraid to come out and file a complaint at POLO.

“We will act immediately against any agency once we receive a complaint,” she said.

Under Hong Kong laws, employment agencies overcharging placement fees face a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment and fines of up to HK$350,000.

On August 12, Pereira complained to POLO that Vast Sky demanded her to pay HK$5,000 by August 14, on top of the HK$7,500 she already paod. She then told Romulo that she paid the agency HK$2,500 cash upfront in Manila, and made two monthly payments of HK$2,500 each to the agency when she arrived in Hong Kong.

Pereira also told Romulo that the agency had kept her passport as a security for the illegal fees.

It was later found out that Vast Sky, whose office is at Seven Seas Shopping Centre in North Point, was not accredited by POLO. After discovering that Top Wealth had stamped the worker’s contract, Romulo summoned the company’s representative to her office.

The Labor Attache also advised the domestic worker that she can report Vast Sky to the Employment Agency Administration for overcharging and keeping her travel document.

After receiving a call from POLO about the complaint, an executive at Vast Sky called Pereira to express his frustration about what she did. That’s before he offered to waive the remaining HK$5,000 and invited her to the agency office on August 19 to settle the issue. However, Romulo advised her against it.

“We’ll ask them to come here (in our office), don’t go to the agency,” Romulo said.

The agency executive also reportedly contacted Pereira’s employer to tell him about the worker’s complaint but failed to gain sympathy. The male employer told the helper not to worry because he knew the charged payment was illegal.