Octopus disables voucher loophole

Local | Michael Shum 11 Jun 2021

Octopus Cards has disabled a function that could allow users to transfer the government electronic consumption voucher money into bank accounts.

The "transfer in" function on the Octopus app allows card owners to transfer sums from Octopus cards to their Octopus Wallet accounts, from which a user can then choose to transfer the money to a bank account.

In a newsletter sent to users on Wednesday, Octopus said users will not be allowed to transfer money to their Octopus Wallet before they use up the HK$5,000 consumption vouchers issued by the government.

"This is to ensure that the consumption vouchers are not being transferred into bank accounts," Octopus Cards said. "Users can use another Octopus card to collect government's consumption vouchers if they need to top up their Octopus Wallet with their cards regularly."

The new arrangement would also mean users who claim their consumption vouchers with their Octopus cards will not be able to use them for online shopping.

Currently, only a small number of online merchants accept payments with Octopus cards, while others accept a prepaid Octopus Mastercard that deducts money directly from one's Octopus Wallet upon payments.

Other stored-value facilities that will participate in the distribution of the consumption vouchers, including AlipayHK and WeChat Pay HK, have given assurances they too have technology in place to prevent the transfer of the value of consumption vouchers into bank accounts.

Alipay said its system will be able to determine whether merchants are eligible to accept payments with the consumption vouchers.

The company will also follow the government's requirements to limit the vouchers' use for transfers or other specific scenarios.

"This will ensure the electronic vouchers will be able to serve the original intention of stimulating the economy and helping local merchants," the company said.

WeChat Pay also said it has a risk-control mechanism in place that will be able to block transfers, withdrawals or other transaction behaviors that contradict the original intention of the consumption vouchers.

Carine Chow

An 18-year-old student will have to defer the second year of his post-secondary education, as he was sentenced yesterday to a detention center for throwing bricks at a water cannon vehicle a year ago.

Chan Yip-wan had been sentenced to 18 months' probation after pleading guilty to criminal damage and possession of materials with intent to damage properties, but the Department of Justice applied for a sentence review. He received a heavier sentence in the high court yesterday.

His case first appeared in the Eastern court last year, when magistrate Bina Chainrai put him on probation for 18 months.

But the Department of Justice applied for a review this February, arguing that a probation order was too lenient and lacked a deterrent effect. It sought correctional training for Chan, saying that was to strike a balance among punishment, deterrence and rehabilitation.

The request was dismissed by Chainrai after considering the fact that Chan had served two weeks in remand over the case and the time that had passed since the initial sentence.

The prosecution applied for a sentence review on May 26 that was accepted by the court of appeal.

Chief judge Jeremy Poon Shiu-chor and judges Derek Pang Wai-cheong and Judianna Barnes Wai-ling heard the appeal yesterday.

Chan's lawyer said he hoped the judges would send the student to a rehabilitation center instead of a detention center, given that Chan was about to begin his second year of study at the Hong Kong University School of Professional and Continuing Education in September.

However, the judges denied the defense's proposition after considering the severity of the case. Poon said Chan could choose to defer his studies for a semester, as this was allowed by higher education institutions.

The three judges also said the length of detention period would be based on Chan's performance at the labor-intensive detention center, which could range from one to six months. Barnes added that Chan might therefore have the motivation to perform better at the detention center and be released before the start of the new school year.

Chan, who is a commerce student at HKU SPACE, was arrested after he threw bricks at a water cannon truck three meters away as the vehicle reached Percival Street in Causeway Bay on January 1 last year. The brick left an eight-centimeter scratch on the police vehicle, which cost the force HK$9,900 to repair. The repair cost was later borne by Chan.

Chan was also found to have a plastic bottle containing inflammable liquids, a knife, a cutter, a lighter and a hammer.

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