Two bailed over drainage fixing scam

Local | Erin Chan 6 Aug 2021

Two men have been arrested in connection with drainage companies allegedly overcharging customers by exaggerating drain blockages and using threatening tactics.

This came after the Consumer Council received more than 70 complaints about drainage companies in the past three years.

The suspects, Wong, 32, and Lui, 35, have been released on bail after being held on Tuesday for fraud and criminal intimidation. They are required to report back to the police early next month.

The two worked for drainage companies and had been involved in a series of overcharging cases.

They allegedly put up social media posts offering 24/7 drainage services online. When contacted by customers, they would inform them they only charge a few hundred dollars in maintenance costs.

However, the two subsequently overcharged customers, exaggerating the extent of the problems and the work needed to rectify them.

When the customers disputed the charges, the suspects then coerced them into accepting them through threats.

Victims were overcharged by amounts ranging from several thousand dollars to more than HK$10,000, but their drainage problems persisted.

Officers called to the public to shop around for home maintenance services.

"People should check the proposed charges and reputations of multiple service suppliers, as well as comments about them, instead of looking at just one," one said."People should also require suppliers to list the details and terms of their services as much as possible."

In 2019, the Consumer Council said the complaints it received regarding drainage companies showed multiple problems, such as a lack of transparency in charging within the trade and protection of service users, as well as varying service quality of drainage workers.

In one complaint, a victim was quoted HK$1,500 for inspection and clearance services for her clogged toilet by a drainage company.

But when the company's contractor showed up, she was told that the charge would be increased to HK$3,800, as her toilet needed to be dismantled for further inspection.

After the toilet was dismantled, the contractor ramped up the charge further to HK$58,000, saying the toilet's drainpipe was severely rusted and that it was linked up to another toilet in the house.

The victim later made a report to the council after other drainage companies she consulted said she had been overcharged.

"Consumers should therefore pay heed to the terms and conditions when deciding whether to engage a drainage clearance service online," the council said.

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September 2021

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