TNG electronic bill payment service ‘not authorised’ by Hong Kong utility companies

Claim by the local start-up that its electronic payment service can pay household bills has been countered by four firms

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 November, 2015, 11:04am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 November, 2015, 5:50am

A claim by a local start-up that its electronic payment service can pay household bills has been countered by four utility companies, who say they never authorised the service.

Police said they had received a complaint yesterday alleging the app may involve fraudulent elements. They said the case was being followed up by the force's cybersecurity division.

The dispute marks the second time the TNG Wallet smartphone app has hit headlines in recent days, after its registration service was overloaded by traffic from users attracted by a time-limited special offer - which left many complaining last week that they were unable to register and top up their accounts.

READ MORE: More Hongkongers are using Octopus cards - but city isn't ready to go cashless just yet

In press releases and statements, the Hong Kong and China Gas Company (Towngas), Wharf T&T, HK Electric Investments and CLP Power Hong Kong all denied authorising TNG to handle their bills.

"[We] found that TNG, without Towngas authorisation, claims that it can collect payments to settle our customers' gas bills," said Towngas. "Towngas hereby clarifies and confirms that we have not authorised TNG to collect customers' gas bill payments on our behalf."

The other three companies issued similar statements.

TNG did not reply to a Post request for comment, but in a statement to Chinese-language newspaper Apple Daily, it admitted it had not partnered with the four companies. It said the app would pay users' household bills via an independent online system, which is similar to the way that tenants in serviced apartments now pay their utility bills.

TNG told the paper the online system allowed the app to collect payments from users and pay the bills to authorised companies within one working day, and to firms that had not given authorisation within three working days. It said it had been discussing authorisation issues with the latter firms.

A Consumer Council spokesman said the council would monitor the issue closely and cautioned consumers against using similar e-payment apps before knowing the apps' background and potential risks.

"There have been many electronic payment apps on the market in recent years and their backgrounds and reliability remain to be confirmed," the spokesman said. "Downloading these apps might enable these apps to collect people's private data. Consumers should pay attention."

TNG was founded in 2012. Its e-payment service was introduced in the latter half of last year. Users can top up their TNG accounts at 7-Eleven and 759 stores, Jetco ATMs and with credit cards.