HK Update: Success Against an Illegal Agency Fee

November 13, 2016
Category: Cases



In an exciting victory, Titi, an Indonesian domestic worker in Hong Kong, recently secured repayment of agency fees illegally charged to her. Although Hong Kong law should have limited her agency fee to approximately HKD $400, her agent charged her many times more. To hide the illegal charges, the agent forced her to take out a “personal” loan for approximately HKD $15,000. Titi could not read the loan papers she signed, but was led to believe that she would not be permitted to work unless she agreed to the loan. 

Hong Kong authorities brought an action in Eastern Magistrates’ Court against Titi’s agent for violating the law regulating agency fees. Special Magistrate Robin Yue King-tin said that the case reflected serious exploitation by an employment agency. The agent intended to charge Titi an amount almost 32 times higher than allowed by law, amounting to more than three months of Titi’s salary.

The case was led by our front-line partners Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) and the Hong Kong arm of Serikat Buruh Migran Indonesia (SBMI). JWB helped Titi prepare to testify in the criminal hearing, while assessing the evidence needed to prove the overcharging. The case was an opportunity for us to to identify next steps for helping other workers who have been similarly victimized by unscrupulous employment agencies, but who have already returned home. JWB will continue to work with its partners to help more migrant workers seek just compensation, whether in Hong Kong or after they return home.