Following is a question by the Hon Charles Mok and a written reply by the Acting Secretary for Transport and Housing, Dr Raymond So Wai-man, in the Legislative Council today (December 13):
At present, a vehicle licence (commonly known as vehicle licence disc) has a validity period of either one year or four months. A vehicle owner who applies for renewal of his vehicle licence disc (licence renewal) after the expiry of the original vehicle licence disc shall pay an additional fee for the period during which the vehicle was unlicensed unless the Commissioner for Transport is satisfied that the vehicle concerned has not been used on a road during such period. On the other hand, some vehicle owners have alleged that the procedure for renewing licence online is complicated. For example, (i) the applicant must be a holder of a valid personal or organisational digital certificate, (ii) applications for late licence renewal are not accepted online and the Government even advises that late licence renewal should be done in person, and (iii) the renewal must be processed through the GovHK website and the applicant’s computer must have been installed with Java software before the website’s services can be accessed, but a number of commonly used browsers (e.g. Edge, Firefox (version 52 or later) and Chrome) have ceased to support Java plug-ins. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of (i) the number of applications for late licence renewal, (ii) the average number of days for which licence renewal was late in those applications, and (iii) the number of fixed penalty notices issued by the Police for failure to display valid vehicle licence discs on windscreens of vehicles, in each of the past five years;
(2) of the number of (i) applications for late licence renewal on which additional fees were levied by the Government and the total amount of money received, and (ii) applications for which additional fees were waived by the Government and the total amount of revenue foregone, in the past five years;
(3) whether it will consider introducing short message service to remind vehicle owners that their vehicle licence discs will soon expire so that they may apply for licence renewal in time;
(4) of the number of page views of the web pages for online licence renewal, and the number of cases of licence renewal completed through such web pages, in the past five years; given that a number of browsers no longer support Java plug-ins, whether the Government will add maintenance and upgrade clauses in the tender document when inviting public tenders for the new electronic service system to ensure that the new system stays abreast of the times;
(5) given that under the requirements of the existing legislation, private cars which are six years old or above are required to pass an annual vehicle examination conducted by a car testing centre authorised by the Government before the licences for them may be renewed, and there is no such requirement for those below six years old, whether the authorities will allow owners of private cars of all ages to opt for vehicle licence discs with a validity period of two years during licence renewal (and owners of private cars which are below six years old may even opt for vehicle licence discs with a validity period of three years) so as to reduce the trouble created for those vehicle owners; and
(6) whether it will adopt the following measures to improve the procedure for online licence renewal: (i) abolishing the requirement for applicants to hold valid digital certificates, (ii) accepting applications for licence renewal made after the expiry of the original vehicle licence discs (especially those applications made in respect of private cars below six years old for which annual vehicle examination is not required), (iii) adding to the online licence renewal system the function of automatic calculation of the amount of the additional fees payable for late licence renewal, and (iv) reducing the documents required to be submitted (e.g. proof is not required to be submitted for the same address the proof for which has already been submitted by the vehicle owner when applying for a driving licence)?
My reply to the various parts of the Hon Charles Mok’s question is as follows:
(1) The number of applications for late renewal of vehicle licence, the average number of days for which licence renewal was late in those applications, and the number of fixed penalty notices issued by the Police for failure to display a valid vehicle licence in each of the past five years are tabulated below:
(2) The number of applications for late renewal of vehicle licence for which additional fees were payable, the total amount of additional fees the Transport Department (TD) received, and the number of applications for renewal of vehicle licence for which additional fees were waived in each of the past five years are tabulated below:
Note 1: A vehicle owner who has not used the vehicle on a road after expiry of the vehicle licence may apply for waiving the additional fee. The vehicle owner shall complete the “Declaration of Application for Waiving Additional Fees Incurred from Usage of Vehicle During the Unlicensed Period” on page 2 of the application form for renewal of vehicle licence (Form TD558), and indicate the period during which the vehicle has been put off the road.
The TD does not maintain data on the amount of additional fees payable but waived for late applications for renewal of vehicle licence in each of the past five years. Since the amount of additional fee waived in respect of a vehicle varies with vehicle class and the number of days for which licence renewal is late, the TD is unable to work out the total amount of additional fees waived using the number of applications for vehicle licence renewal for which additional fees were waived.
(3) Since April 26, 2012, the TD has, in conjunction with the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer, launched an e-service, “Reminder for Vehicle Licence Renewal”, on the MyGovHK platform. The service has the following features:
(i) A reminder message can be sent via the MyGovHK platform to vehicle owners four months and two weeks before the expiry of the vehicle licence respectively, as well as on the day when the vehicle licence expires;
(ii) A vehicle owner may choose the email reminder service, or download the GovHK Notifications mobile application to receive short reminder message; and
(iii) A vehicle owner can check the vehicle licence expiry date through the service.
A vehicle owner can learn about the registration method and details in respect of “Reminder for Vehicle Licence Renewal” on the first page of “Transport and Motoring” on the GovHK website.
It is against the law to drive a vehicle on a road during the unlicenced period. For the sake of road safety and law observance, the TD will issue a letter to vehicle owners within 21 days after the expiry of their vehicle licences, reminding them to apply for vehicle licence renewal as soon as possible.
(4) The number of page views of the web pages for online vehicle licence renewal and the number of cases of vehicle licence renewal completed through such web pages in each of the past five years are tabulated below:
Note 2: Those who have viewed the website may not necessarily formally submit application for renewal of vehicle licences through that website thereafter.
Since a number of existing browsers no longer support Java plug-ins, the TD is studying the use of an alternative software programme, Java Web Start, as a replacement for relevant technology, which is expected to be implemented within 2018. Moreover, the Government will include relevant maintenance and upgrade clauses in the tender document for the electronic service systems to ensure the provision of the necessary system maintenance and software upgrading services for the systems during the contract period.
(5) According to section 21 of the Road Traffic (Registration and Licensing of Vehicles) Regulations (Cap 374E), a registered owner may apply for a vehicle licence with a validity period of four or 12 months. Due to road safety considerations, private cars aged six years or more must receive vehicle examination before the annual licence renewal. When handling applications for vehicle licence renewal, the TD will also, in accordance with the law, verify if relevant vehicles have been covered by third party risks insurance, and request the vehicle owners to update their addresses and related record registered in the TD.
If vehicle licences with a longer validity period (e.g. two or three years) are issued, it will be difficult to ensure that owners of vehicles aged six years or more have received annual vehicle examination and have procured valid annual third party risks insurance plan for the vehicles. In addition, the TD will be unable to verify relevant personal information (including addresses) of the vehicle owners through the annual renewal of vehicle licences. This may affect the accuracy of the vehicle owners’ addresses kept in TD’s register of vehicles, hence hindering the Government’s enforcement actions (including the service of summons and notices of payment of fines).
The existing arrangement of issuing vehicle licences valid for four or 12 months has been adopted for many years and widely received by vehicle owners and the public. In view of the considerations above, the TD has no intention of extending the validity of the vehicle licences at this stage.
(6) In accordance with section 21 of the Road Traffic (Registration and Licensing of Vehicles) Regulations (Cap 374E), an application form specified by the Commissioner for Transport must be used when applying for a vehicle licence, and the form must be signed by the registered owner of the vehicle or by some person duly authorised by him/her in writing. According to Gazette Notice No. 8522 issued pursuant to Section 11(2) of the Electronic Transactions Ordinance (Cap 533), if the provision expressly requires the signature of the person; or the provision requires the submission to be made in a specified form and the specified form has a signature requirement, then an electronic record given, presented or served under a statutory provision must be signed with a digital signature. In accordance to section 6(1A) of Electronic Transactions Ordinance, digital signature is only supported by digital certificate currently.
The Chief Executive announced in the Chief Executive’s 2017 Policy Address that an eID would be provided for all Hong Kong residents so that they could use a single digital identity and authentication to conduct transactions online. The TD will keep close track of the progress of the scheme so as to enhance the methods of identity authentication and provide convenience to vehicle owners using online application for vehicle licence renewal.
At present, owners of vehicles with valid registration can use the online system for vehicle licence renewal application. The online system will automatically calculate the amount of the additional fee payable basing on the number of outstanding days since the expiry of the licence. Vehicle owners may also settle the payment by electronic means.
The TD will review the documents required to be submitted for the application of vehicle licence renewal from time to time according to the statutory requirements for the convenience of applicants. As to the documents the registered vehicle owners are currently required by the TD to submit for online application for vehicle licence renewal, they are determined having regard to the requirements of the law. Regarding the address proof, in accordance to section 59(A) of the Road Traffic (Registration and Licensing of Vehicles) Regulations, the TD may, in processing an application for vehicle licence renewal submitted under regulation 21, require the applicant to produce proof of his address; and may suspend the processing of the application until the production of such proof.