Hong Kong’s use of digital payment systems soars under e-voucher scheme

Numerous visitors to Saturday's HK Bands and Products Shopping Expo were spotted making purchases with their e-vouchers. (South China Morning Post photo)
Numerous visitors to Saturday’s HK Bands and Products Shopping Expo were spotted making purchases with their e-vouchers. (South China Morning Post photo)

HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s consumption voucher programme has sparked a major leap in the local use of electronic payment systems, the city’s finance chief has said, pointing to the creation of more than 2.2 million new accounts in the past few months.

A week after the roll-out of the first HK$2,000 (8,600 baht) instalment of the HK$5,000 e-vouchers, Paul Chan Mo-po said the scheme was achieving its goal of stimulating the economy and supporting employment, noting the “festive atmosphere” in society.

“Many shopkeepers have said the visitor flow has apparently increased recently, with some consumers being more generous in their spending,” Chan wrote on his official blog on Sunday.

He also said the vouchers had laid the groundwork for Hong Kong’s transformation to a digital economy. The city has long lagged behind mainland China in its adoption of electronic payment systems.

As of last month, the total number of WeChat Pay HK, AlipayHK, Tap & Go and Octopus accounts – the four systems designated for use with the programme – had grown by more than 2.2 million users, Chan said.

The number of merchants accepting those payments, meanwhile, had increased by more than 48,000.

In a bid to draw consumers, the four companies have partnered with shopping centres and retail chains to roll out billions of dollars in lotteries and rebates.

“The consumption voucher scheme has allowed citizens to pick the stored-value facility operators in accordance with their needs. It not only facilitates the competition among different operators, but also lays the groundwork for electronic payment,” Chan wrote.

“I am eager to see different operators expand their consumer base by continuing to lower their charges and improve their service quality.”

Last Wednesday, the Consumer Council said it had received 42 complaints so far about the consumption scheme, revealing some shops had required its customers to spend a minimum amount or charged transaction fees for the privilege of using the vouchers.

Chan reminded residents there was no allowance in the programme for either move, adding the electronic payment operators or the Consumer Council would follow up on shops that broke the rules.

He also called on members of the public to sign up for the vouchers before the registration period ends on Saturday, while urging shops that had yet to accept electronic payments to get on board to take advantage of the consumption power to be released by the vouchers in the coming months.

The second batch of vouchers will be distributed from Oct 1, and depending on payment systems, will remain valid until March 31 next year.

The HK$36 billion initiative was introduced by Chan in his February budget blueprint with an eye towards stimulating spending in local retail businesses, eateries and public transport, and boosting the city’s coronavirus-hammered economy by 0.7%.

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