Return of Octopus card interest rejected

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 May, 2009, 12:00am

Octopus Card deposits in Hong Kong amount to nearly HK$700 million, lawmakers heard yesterday. But a government official rejected their calls for the interest the cards' distributor earns on the money to be returned to the public.

Acting Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Julia Leung Fung-yee, citing information provided by Octopus Holdings, said that at the end of last year Octopus Card deposits totalled HK$682 million.

She said the company did not keep a separate record of the interest derived from Octopus Card deposits.

Of 19 million Octopus cards and products in circulation at the end of March, more than 80 per cent were on-loan cards, on which holders pay a refundable deposit of HK$50.

Legislator Wong Kwok-hing asked if the government had considered requiring that the interest earned on the HK$682 million deposits be returned to the public. Colleague Andrew Cheng Kar-foo asked whether, given the size of the deposits, the company could waive its charge for viewing more than 10 Octopus card transactions. But Ms Leung said the company needed to cover card-making costs and other expenses. She said about HK$30 of the HK$50 deposit for an Octopus card went into the cost of making it.

Ms Leung also told lawmakers that the company had handled 681 complaints about charging errors in the last financial year. Of these, 182 were transport-related.

Ms Leung blamed the charging errors on cardholders or service providers not executing transactions properly.

'For instance, the contact time of the Octopus Card with the card reader was too short, or the Octopus payment instructions were not followed properly,' she said. The company reported it had refunded all those overcharged.