A Hong Kong employment agency has been suspended by the Philippine Overseas Labor Office for acting as a sub-agent for an agency that allegedly charged a newly arrived maid an illegal fee of HK$12,000 (US$1,528).

Domestic worker Olga Pereira complained to the POLO on August 12 that Vast Sky Employment Ltd in North Point on Hong Kong Island had demanded she pay HK$5,000 (US$636) by August 14, the sunwebhk.com reported.

Pereira said she had paid the agency HK$2,500 in cash upfront in Manila and made two monthly payments of HK$2,500 each to the agency when she arrived in Hong Kong in April this year.

The agency also kept Pereira’s passport.

Vast Sky placed Pereira in Hong Kong, but the agency stamp in her employment contract showed the name of the Top Wealth Employment Agency in Blissful Building on Des Voeux Road in Central.

Vast Sky was not accredited by the POLO.

Labor Attache Nida Romulo said they suspended the processing of contracts from Top Wealth on the day Pereira filed her complaint.

“It acted as a sub-agent and the owner knows that is against the undertaking that it had signed with Polo,” Romulo said. But she did not say how long the suspension would be, adding it will be determined by her superiors.

She said workers who are overcharged by agencies should not be afraid to file complaints at POLO.

On August 19, an official at Top Wealth returned HK$5,000 of the HK$7,500 Pereira had already paid and gave her back her passport during a meeting with Romulo.

Hong Kong employment agencies are permitted to charge an amount not exceeding a sum equal to 10% of a maid’s first month’s wages. The current maximum chargeable agency fee is HK$441.

Read: Most HK maids overcharged by agencies, survey finds