Commuters lost HK$142,000 in Octopus glitch
A total of HK$142,400 was wrongfully deducted from the bank accounts of Octopus card users in the past two months when they unsuccessfully attempted to use the EPS add-value machines in MTR Corp and Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation stations.
Apoligising to cardholders yesterday, Octopus Holdings chief executive Prudence Chan Bik-wah said the amount involved 571 transactions, an average of HK$250 each, and would be refunded by next Wednesday.
The EPS add-value service was suspended on February 3 pending the results of an investigation into the glitch.
Cardholders can still add value using cash at EPS services outside MTR and KCR stations, because separate networks are used and they are not affected by the problem, Octopus Cards sales and marketing director Cindy Cheng said.
Octopus is liaising with EPS and the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, which governs the smartcard operator under the Banking Ordinance, and will initiate an inquiry with an independent consultant. The findings are expected in a few months.
Ms Cheng said the inquiry would help find whether the problem was with hardware, software or infrastructure.
She explained that under normal circumstances the add-value machine would alert the cardholder if adding value via EPS failed, with the message: 'Add value unsuccessful. Please contact customer service counter.'
A reversal signal would be relayed from the add-value machine to EPS to cancel the transaction and ensure that the amount was not deducted from the bank account.
In the 571 affected transactions, Ms Cheng said the reversal signal was somehow lost in the transmission and deductions were made even though the add-value function had failed.
Octopus checked its records for wrongful deductions starting from December 5. Ms Cheng said it had not detected any lost reversal signals before then.
The company received two complaints about the wrongful deductions on January 8 and 24. Refunds totalling HK$500 had been arranged for both customers, the company said.
Earlier this week, Octopus started reviewing more than 500,000 transactions on its EPS add-value machines. The number of transactions in the affected period exceeded 500,000.
A spokesman for the Consumer Council said he hoped Octopus would consider ways to improve transparency, including by allowing cardholders to access their transaction history online.
Octopus is urging anyone with inquiries to call its customer services hotline on 2266 2222. The company will provide transaction details free of charge if the cardholder has the date and approximate time the add-value took place.