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Electronic consumption voucher scheme

Since the announcement of the Budget in end February, we have been working in full steam to take forward the various Budget measures. Among those measures, the 100% Personal Loan Guarantee Scheme, which aims at providing a time-limited supplementary financing option for the unemployed, was approved by the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council and is expected to be open for application by the end of this month.

We have been making progress in the preparatory work of the electronic consumption voucher scheme (the Scheme) as well. With the assistance of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA), four Stored Value Facility (SVF) operators have been selected to assist in implementing the Scheme, with a view to commencing registration in this summer. The selected SVF operators are AlipayHK, Octopus, Tap & Go and WeChat Pay HK. The respective SVFs currently cover a network of some 30 000 to 100 000 merchants in the local retail, food and beverage, and service industries.

The major selection criteria include the operator's relevant experience, their popularity, their business nature and the aspect of merchants that the SVFs covered. We believe the four selected operators have offered the SVFs mostly used by the general public in daily consumption.

We are also aware of the need to ensure good user experience. In preparing, designing and implementing the Scheme, we will do our best to cater for the needs of different users, and strike a balance between various aspects such as user convenience, operation reliability, and service coverage.

We will set up a central registration system for the public to register online. For those who have previously registered for the Cash Handout Scheme, some of their basic personal data will be automatically filled in for verification, so that registrants can save time in entering information.

People can choose any one of the four SVFs that best suit their consumption pattern for receiving and using the consumption vouchers. Taking the Octopus for instance. People could register with their Octopus card in hand without the need to register a new one or to use a personalised Octopus card. For the other three SVFs, as they are operated as e-wallets on smart-phone platforms, the use of consumption vouchers through them will be even more convenient.

To prevent impersonation or fraudulent use of personal data in registration, the central registration system will not accept duplicated application. In addition, each Octopus card or personal e-wallet will only be allowed for one single registration.

As for other implementation details of the Scheme, such as number of instalments, the amount of each instalment and the validity period, we are now considering the different suggestions from the public, with a view to confirming the details soon. The general principle is to allow flexible use of the electronic consumption vouchers within a certain period of time in local retail, food and beverage and service merchants, so as to stimulate the economy.

To enhance the convenience in using the voucher and cover more merchants in their networks, the operators have agreed to waive, as far as practicable, relevant fees for the installation and usage of payment devices by local merchants (in particular SMEs), as well as general administrative fees. For instance, if the merchants apply directly to the operators for payment-receiving code or simple devices, i.e. not applying through a third party supplier, no installation fee will be charged. In addition, the SVF operators, taking into account their respective operational model and commercial arrangements, will rebate the additional income generated from the Scheme to merchants or consumers by different means.

The issue of electronic consumption vouchers of $5,000 to each eligible Hong Kong permanent resident and new arrival aged 18 or above, which involves financial commitment of about $36 billion, is expected to boost the economy by 0.7 percentage point. Apart from stimulating the consumption market and hence the local economy, the Scheme also encourages small merchants to adopt e-payment methods, so as to better grasp the related business opportunities in the future.

In order to maximise the economic benefit of the Scheme, besides curbing the local epidemic as soon as possible, we hope that the participating SVF operators, as well as the retail, food and beverage and service sectors will organise large scale promotional events and even offer cross-sectoral concessions. This will help create a greater multiplying effect of the Scheme and give a boost to our economy and the labour market.

April 11, 2021

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