Cashless payment of government bills on the cards

Top News | Amy Nip 11 Jan 2018

The Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau is considering a pilot scheme for cashless settlement of government bills with e-wallets, such as Apple Pay and AlipayHK.

Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury James Lau revealed so - in reply to a question from lawmaker Chan Chun-ying in the Legislative Council about how the government would promote new forms of electronic payments, especially by using QR code.

Lau said e-wallets offered by some stored value facility licensee operators allow users to pay bills. Users can scan the barcodes on their bills - such as phone bills and Towngas bills - and make payments on their phones.

"To facilitate the development of the stored facility licensee market, the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau is exploring a pilot scheme - along with a number of government departments - in which the public can pay government bills in the same manner," he said.

A number of operators are providing QR code payments in Hong Kong, covering chain supermarkets, convenience stores, wet markets and taxis.

To promote the wider adoption of mobile retail payments as well as provide greater convenience to both merchants and customers, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and the industry have established a working group on common QR code standard for retail payments.

The working group will explore how to enable merchants to use a single QR code to accept payments from different e-wallet operators.

Asked if the government would make it mandatory for public transport operators as well as major retailers to fully accept QR code payment, Lau said the government would facilitate its use but not make it a must.

Hong Kong has a well-developed electronic payment ecosystem. Various electronic payment means, including conventional and contactless credit cards, Octopus and EPS, are available to the public, he said.

"Electronic payment now accounts for about 60 percent of total private consumption expenditure. QR code payment is only one of the various payment means, and its development in Hong Kong is still at an early stage. We believe merchants will take into account their own circumstances, scenarios of usage, customer behavior and operating costs in choosing the payment solutions which would best suit their purposes," he said.

The monetary authority is also working with the industry to develop a faster-payment system, for launch in September.

As a new financial infrastructure, the system will provide full connectivity between banks and e-wallet operators. Through the system, they can provide real-time credit transfer and real-time direct debit services to facilitate payments between merchants and customers, as well as peer-to-peer fund transfers.

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