LCQ12: Combating touting activities in the booking and use of recreation and sports facilities
Regarding the measures taken by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) to combat the acts of some hirers touting their booked sessions for using recreation and sports facilities for profit (touting activities), will the Government inform this Council:
(1) in respect of the anti-touting measures implemented by the LCSD, of the following information in each month since last year:
(i) the number of complaints about suspected touting activities received by the LCSD;
(ii) the number of cases in which the hirers had their booking rights for fee-charging recreation and sports facilities suspended after failing to take up the booked sessions and/or not being present during the use of the booked sessions on two occasions within 30 consecutive days;
(iii) the number of cases in which facility users (including hirers and users) were refused the use of the facilities because the identity documents produced by them were inconsistent with the booking records, and the types of venues involved;
(iv) the number of inspections conducted by LCSD staff during the booked sessions of the facilities, as well as the number of cases of breaches found and the types of venues involved; and
(v) the number of cases in which the hirers had their booking rights for fee-charging recreation and sports facilities suspended because they engaged in unauthorised transfer of user permits;
(2) the respective numbers of cases since November 1 last year in which the hirers of natural and artificial turf football pitches under the LCSD (i) failed to take up the booked sessions and/or were not present during the use of the booked sessions and (ii) were refused the use of the pitches due to their failure to register with three of the users provided in their applications for the pitches;
(3) of the measures currently in place to prevent persons engaging in touting activities from using computer software programmes to snatch bookings of the sessions of the LCSD's recreation and sports facilities; and
(4) whether the authorities will consider amending the legislation or enacting new legislation to step up efforts to combat touting activities; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
My reply to the questions raised by the Hon Lam Chun-sing is as follows:
(1) In recent years, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) has adopted a multi-pronged approach focusing on combating touting activities, including enhancing the booking system, imposing penalty arrangements and stepping up inspections etc.. The complaints and records of breaches since the implementation of the above measures are as follows:
(i) The LCSD received around 270 complaints about touting activities from January 2022 to February 2023.
(ii) Under the original policy, hirers who either "not take up the booked sessions" or "not being present during the use of the booked sessions" on two occasions within 30 consecutive days would have their booking right for fee-charging sports and recreation facilities suspended for 90 days. On November 1, 2022, the LCSD launched a new measure to extend the validity period of all effective or newly effective records of "not taking up the booked sessions" or "not being present during the use of the booked sessions" from 30 to 60 consecutive days to strengthen the deterrent effect. From January 2022 to February 2023, there was an average of around 400 cases per month where hirers had their booking right for LCSD's fee-charging sports and recreation facilities suspended for 90 days after having accumulated such breaches on two occasions.
(iii) According to the record of the LCSD, there was a monthly average of 6 900 cases of failing to take up the booked sessions from January 2022 to February 2023, including hirers not being present, hirers failing to produce valid identity documents and other various reasons. The LCSD has not collected statistics on the reasons for the failure to take up the booked sessions, and therefore is unable to provide more detailed breakdown.
(iv) Since the launch of multiple new measures on May 1, 2022 to combat touting activities by the LCSD, its venue staff have increased random inspections during the booked sessions. As at February 2023, a total of over 770 000 inspections were conducted by staff of LCSD venues during the booked sessions. Around 1 380 hirers were found not being present during the use of the booked sessions, involving various fee-charging sports and recreation facilities such as arenas of sports centres, tennis courts and turf soccer pitches.
(v) From January 2022 to February 2023, no hirers had their booking rights for sports and recreation facilities suspended due to unauthorised transfer of user permits.
(2) From November 2022 onwards, the LCSD requires a hirer, at the time of making an online application for balloting of the turf soccer pitches, to provide the Leisure Link patron numbers of four other users, and three of whom must check in and be present with the hirer during the use of the booked session. If the hirer and the three users fail to take up the booked session or are found not being present during the use of the booked session, the hirer will be considered as "not taking up the booked session or not being present during the use of the booked session" for one time. A total of over 110 cases of such breaches have been recorded since the launch of this new measure.
(3) The LCSD has all along been working hard to combat access of the Leisure Link online system by bot programmes. Security requirements of the system has been formulated according to relevant guidelines, including installing multiple layers of safeguards against bots and updating the complexity of CAPTCHA on a regular basis, to target access by specific bot programmes. In recent years, the LCSD has even engaged professional teams to provide specialised anti-bot services with back-end data analysis and instant updates of strategies to counter the ever-evolving computer programmes and operations. Moreover, the LCSD regularly monitors the usage of the system and keeps an eye on access by unusual networks such as websites of overseas data centres or cloud services etc.. The access of suspicious websites will be blocked immediately when necessary.
(4) In addition to combating touting activities of sports and recreation venues through administrative measures, the LCSD has been exploring the possibility of imposing criminal liabilities or fines on persons engaging in unauthorised transfer of such venues under the current legislation. The LCSD is seeking legal advice on requiring the hirers and the hiring organisations to declare and undertake that they will not transfer the booked facilities by any means at the time of their booking or registering to use the facilities. Appropriate follow-up action would be taken against those who are suspected of engaging in unauthorised transfer of booked facilities. The LCSD will actively explore the feasibility of requiring hirers and the hiring organisations to make relevant declarations at the launch of the new intelligent sports and recreation services booking and information system.
Ends/Wednesday, March 15, 2023
Issued at HKT 14:45
Issued at HKT 14:45