An agent with British insurance company Prudential is accused of harassing a woman who was trying to film an illegal “show truck” run by the firm at locations across Tsim Sha Tsui.
Local resident and safe streets campaigner Mary Mulvihill says she had called police over the show truck – a diesel truck converted into a mobile saleroom – with complaints of the illegally-parked showroom causing traffic congestion and long queues of people breaking social gathering laws.
But as Mulvihill made a report to police officers, she says, a “Prudential agent” aggressively began harassing her into backing down.
“The officers had to repeatedly warn the agent to step back,” she says.
Prudential has not responded to questions on the incident or its policy of using diesel show-trucks as street-side sales booths.
The firm had earlier said it is committed to a “net zero” future, calling for a 25% reduction in carbon emissions of all shareholder and policyholder assets by 2025 and planning to “accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy”.
Mulvihill says she has long battled the issue of show trucks which are rarely licensed properly and which cause pollution and traffic chaos in the district.
“The idling issue is actually more about the double parking they create. When they take up two kerb side spaces for hours, other vehicles are obliged to double park to offload/onload and this causes tailbacks.”
“There are hundreds of empty prime street shops that can be used for pop-ups so there’s no excuse at all for this free of charge on-street operation to be tolerated,” she says.
“But you can feel that the policy is to tolerate these show trucks.”
Advertising vehicles require a permit from Commissioner for Transport under Section 52A of Road Traffic Ordinance, Cap. 374, but in this and many other cases Mulvihill has chased down, no permit was seen on the vehicle.
Mulvihill says after another complaint about the same Prudential truck earlier in the day, a worker told traffic wardens they were “just loading”, despite having salespeople working in the back, sun-visors on the windscreen and a queue of people waiting for a free gift.
“Those traffic wardens took no enforcement action,” she says. “Apart from parking for hours on a ‘drop-off only’ designated area, there were also the offences that there was no driver on board the vehicle and it was obstructing access to a fire hydrant from the roadway.”
“Hawking insurance from the back of a truck”
Mulhilvill also says the chaotic scenes at the show truck do not seem conducive for selling financial products. “Hawking insurance policies from the street from illegally parked vehicles is certainly not the type of activity one would expect in a well-regulated market,” Mulvihill said in a complaint letter to the Insurance Authority (IA) after the incident.
Prudential has long faced issues with the behaviour of its agents in the district. In 2016, according to internal documents seen by Transit Jam, the firm sought to implement “Control Measures” to handle the situation of “images of crowded service centres together with unauthorised quotes from Prudential [agents].”
“The issue regarding mainland Chinese purchasing insurance in HK has become a hot topic for media,” says the senior executive briefing note, recommending new security arrangements to be put in place to handle mainland agents and to stop undercover reporters from exposing illegal insurance sales practices.
Neither Prudential Hong Kong nor Prudential Corporation Asia have responded to questions on the behaviour of the Prudential agent or how the firm’s use of show trucks aligns with the company’s carbon commitments and environmental promises.