PETALING JAYA - You almost cannot help but notice the black and white squares with a maze-like pattern popping up around Petaling Jaya.
Whether at a restaurant or a retail store, the little squares appear.
Since these little squares are now seen at entrances of more than 50,000 businesses in Petaling Jaya, people from all walks of life are curious.
One man at a tea-shop eating a croissant asked casually, “What are those funny little squares?”
The “funny little squares” are known as Quick Response Code (QRC).
Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) has introduced the QRC for business licences.
It contains information of the trader, company name, address, nature of business and licence period.
Businesses in Petaling Jaya are required to have the QRC sticker apart from the council-issued licence that is hung at the entrance of trade premises.
Traders will have to fork out RM5 for the QRC sticker on top of the RM5 incurred for the official printed licence board.
Petaling Jaya Mayor Datin Paduka Alinah Ahmad, who launched the initiative, said the QRC sticker developed by the council’s Licensing Department deputy director Sharinaz Shamsudin enabled enforcement officers and even members of the public to whip out their smartphones, scan the code and obtain information on the trader and the business.
Each QRC resembles a black square on a white background and, once scanned, it reveals the trade licence account number, company name, address of the premises, licenced trade activities and licence period.
“All the information can be accessed using a smartphone.
“It helps us to detect counterfeit licences,” she said in conjunction with the Let’s Pay Our Licence 2014 campaign.
In addition, Alinah said MBPJ would also introduce an employee/assistant card incorporating security features and the QR Code system for 2014 licences that cover business activities such as food, beauty and healthcare centres as well as cybercafes.
“For the first phase, MBPJ requires only holders of hawker and cybercafe licences to register the names of their employees.
“This is to ensure that the employees are not foreign workers because they are prohibited from working in cybercafes or as hawkers,” she said.
QR codes are not new and have been around for quite some time.
Denso Wave, a business arm of Toyota, invented it to track automotive parts in its manufacturing process in 1994 but now it is more of a marketing tool.
Critics are against the QR code sticker as some claim the council’s current printed licence with the trader’s photo and similar particulars is more than enough for inspection.
All businesses in Petaling Jaya will have to cough up RM5 per sticker with the Sirim approved QR code.
Critics say MBPJ must not put the squeeze on businesses and the QR code sticker must be scrapped as there has been no case of traders coming up with falsified licences.
The current practice of exhibiting the licence board on the shop wall is the norm and this requires licensing officers to enter the premises to conduct checks.
Section 107 (5) of the Local Government Act 1976 states, “Every person to whom a licence has been granted shall exhibit his licence at all times in some prominent place on the licenced premises and shall produce such licence if required to do so by any officer of the local authority authorised to demand the same”.
Sub-section (6) states, “Any person who fails to exhibit or to produce such licence under subsection (5) shall be guilty of an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding RM500 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or both”.
So, the law spells out the need for traders to place the licence in a conspicuous manner and MBPJ’s reasoning for quick checks, being transparent with information and wanting to allow customers to have access to information does not hold water, say once business proprietor.
Some see MBPJ’s move to impose a sticker with a QR code as uncalled for as it burdens the business owner with additional charges and duplicates the existing process.
According to a source in MBPJ Licensing Department, the move aims to generate extra revenue but their actions must be reasonable.
Others are all for the QRC system.
Consumer culture today is increasingly mobile and according to Accenture, nearly two-thirds, or 61 per cent, of consumers access the Internet via their smartphones, say proponents.
They say another important benefit QR codes bring to the businesses is the ability to bridge the gap between offline and online media.
MBPJ should be innovative and encourage businesses to use QR codes to enable consumers to quickly connect or promote deals to consumers who will love it.
QR codes act as the link and expose customers to other forms of advertising.
This maximises exposure and can potentially generate better revenue for the businesses and the city.