Jockey Club swayed by credit card outcry

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 April, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 April, 1999, 12:00am

The Jockey Club has backed down on a move to make Hang Seng Bank credit cards compulsory for all members, following a flood of complaints and a demand for an explanation from the Privacy Commissioner.

In an apparent about-turn, officials revealed yesterday that an alternative card, identical to the current membership card, would be issued to those refusing to join the bank's scheme.

The move to replace Hong Kong Jockey Club internal membership cards with a Hang Seng Bank credit card - which they must use to 'enjoy membership facilities' - was legally questionable, privacy experts said.

But as the Privacy Commissioner wrote to the Jockey Club seeking clarification on the scheme, to be phased in by October, the club insisted members had the choice whether to hand over personal data.

Bank chiefs said this week that if members did not give consent, the 'logical consequence' was that they could not use club services.

'They will use this card to engage in membership activities. If they want to use the club's facilities, they will use the card,' said Jockey Club official Boyd Fung, describing it as 'a membership card'.

Another club spokesman admitted yesterday that members had not been told they had a choice.

'For those who don't want to use the Hang Seng Mastercard, they will be issued with another membership card, no different to the existing card,' he said.

The members would be sent a form 'asking whether they would like to disclose their personal information', he said.

Member Mark Pinkstone, a public relations executive, said yesterday there was 'no notification of any choice in the matter'.

'It was a fait accompli. What upset me so much was there was no alternative,' he said, adding that he had complained to the Jockey Club.

Law Reform Commission privacy sub-committee member Dr John Bacon-Shone said the club should offer members an alternative or it might be in breach of the law.

He said any attempt to compel members to use the card 'rewrites what membership of the club means' and did not allow the option of informed consent.

'Membership information is also personal data and it used to be extremely privileged information,' Dr Bacon-Shone said.

The Privacy Commissioner's office wrote to the Jockey Club's membership management on Wednesday seeking clarification.

The club sent out a circular about the changes last Friday.