1. The Massage Establishments Bill 2017 was introduced for First Reading in Parliament today.
2. The Massage Establishments Act (MEA) regulates massage establishments (MEs) to prevent them from being used as fronts for vice activities and causing law and order problems.
3. MHA has reviewed the ME regulatory regime to ensure that it remains effective in the changing landscape. The enhanced regime will allow the Police to take tougher action against unlicensed MEs, while reducing the regulatory burden for lower-risk massage activities and compliant MEs.
MHA will strengthen levers to take unlicensed MEs to task
4. There has been a 40% increase in the number of unlicensed MEs detected between 2013 and 2016, many of which were fronts for vice activities.
5. To deter unlicensed MEs, the Bill will increase the penalties for operating unlicensed MEs from a maximum fine of $1,000 today to a fine up to $10,000 or imprisonment of up to 2 years or both. Punishment for subsequent convictions will be more than doubled, with a fine up to $20,000 or imprisonment of up to 5 years or both.
6. The Bill will also target lessors who knowingly continue to lease premises to unlicensed ME operators. The Police will notify lessors once their tenant is charged for operating an unlicensed ME. After the conviction of the tenant, the lessor will be empowered to evict the tenant. Lessors who take reasonable steps to do so will not be penalised. However, those who do not will face a fine of up to $10,000 or imprisonment of up to 2 years or both for the first conviction, with stiffer penalties for subsequent convictions.
7. The Bill will allow the Police to close unlicensed ME premises whilst criminal proceedings are ongoing. Because of their profitability, recalcitrant unlicensed ME operators may continue to operate such enterprises despite having been charged in court. With the new amendments in force, the Commissioner of Police can prevent such occurrences by issuing a closure order that requires an unlicensed ME premise to be vacated and physically secured. The order will remain in force until the completion of the court case.
MHA will reduce the regulatory burden for low-risk activities and focus the regulatory regime on higher-risk MEs
8. The enhanced ME regulatory regime will exclude low-risk massage activities from the requirement to apply for a licence, and allow longer licences for licensees with good track records.
9. Low-risk activities, including manicure and pedicure salons, light treatment (e.g. Intense Pulsed Light hair removal treatment), fish spas, baby spas and baths will no longer require a licence. These activities, which are regulated under the MEA today, do not pose the same law and order concerns as traditional MEs offering body massages in private rooms. However, if these operators are found to be providing unlicensed massage services, they will be charged for operating unlicensed MEs and face the increased penalties under the updated regulatory regime.
10. The Police may in future issue licences valid for up to three years, instead of the standard current one year, to licensees who have a good track record of compliance with regulatory requirements.
11. On the other hand, non-compliant licensed ME operators will be dealt with more severely. The Bill will increase the penalties for regulatory breaches from a maximum fine of $1,000 today to a fine of up to $5,000 for the first conviction. Subsequent convictions will be punishable with a fine of up to $10,000 or imprisonment of up to 2 years or both.
MINISTRY OF HOME AFFAIRS
2 OCTOBER 2017