28 Feb 2018

New Massage Establishments Act and Related Changes to Regulatory Requirements to Come into Force on 1 March 2018

1.  ​The new Massage Establishments Act (MEA) and the related changes to regulatory requirements for massage establishments (ME) will come into force on 1 March 2018. The new MEA will equip the Police with stronger levers to prevent vice activities and law and order problems in MEs.


Police will use strengthened levers to take unlicensed operators to task


2.  The Police will not hesitate to use the full extent of the law to tackle unlicensed MEs. Under the new MEA, unlicensed ME operators will face significantly higher penalties. First-time offenders will be sentenced to a fine of up to $10,000, or imprisonment of up to 2 years, or both. The maximum penalties for subsequent convictions will be doubled or more – a fine of up to $20,000, or imprisonment of up to 5 years, or both.  


3.  The Police will also take action against landlords who knowingly lease their premises to unlicensed ME operators. The Police will notify the landlord when their tenant has been charged in court for operating an unlicensed ME. After the conviction of the tenant, the landlord must require the tenant to hand over possession of the premises within a month. Landlords who take reasonable steps to do so will not be penalised. [1] Those who fail to do so will be liable to the same maximum penalties as the unlicensed ME operators.


4.  A new premises closure order will allow Police to require an unlicensed ME to be vacated and physically secured, if the operator continues to operate the unlicensed ME even after he or she has been charged in court. If the order is not complied with, the Police are empowered to take necessary steps, and use reasonable force, to enforce the closure of the premises. Anyone who breaches the order may face a maximum fine of $15,000, or imprisonment of up to 3 years, or both. These orders will prevent recalcitrant unlicensed ME operators from blatantly breaching the law whilst court proceedings against them are still ongoing.


More effective regulation of licensed MEs


5.  With effect from 1 March 2018, all new ME licences will be subject to additional licensing conditions, to reduce the risk of dis-amenities to the community:


  1. Firstly, operating hours will be restricted, except in designated areas. Category I and exempted MEs will have their operating hours restricted to 7am to 10.30pm daily. [2] Operating hours of Category II MEs, which are subject to lower qualifying criteria but tighter operating requirements, will be restricted to 10am to 10.30pm daily. The only exception will be for Category I MEs operating in designated areas, which will continue to be allowed to operate beyond these hours. [3]

  2. Secondly, all ME licensees will be required to ensure that there are no indecent advertisements of the ME, and must take all necessary measures to remove any such advertisements upon being notified, or directed, by the Police.


6.  All existing ME licensees will be subject to these new conditions when they apply for new licences upon expiry of their existing licences. However, for existing ME licensees located in HDB estates, given the potential dis-amenities the outlet may pose to residents, the new conditions will apply to the current term of their licences. Affected ME licensees will be informed by the Police.


7.  Licensees who breach licensing conditions will face increased penalties. For the first offence, licensees may be fined up to $5,000. Subsequent convictions will be punishable with a fine of up to $10,000, or imprisonment of up to 2 years, or both.


8.  In addition, the Police can immediately suspend the ME licence if the licensee, any responsible officer of the business, or any person with a substantial interest in, or have control or direction over the business, has been charged for serious offences specified in the Schedule of the Act. These include prostitution-related offences under the Women's Charter and trafficking-in-persons offences under the Prevention of Human Trafficking Act.


Reduced regulatory burden for low-risk activities


9.  With effect from 1 March 2018, low-risk activities will no longer require a licence, or be exempted from a licence subject to meeting the conditions in the Massage Establishments (Exemption) Order (see Annex for details). This includes exempted MEs which provide massage services in full view of the public, as long as they notify the Police of their operations.


10.  Operators who fail to comply with the exemption conditions will be deemed as operating unlicensed MEs and will face the enhanced penalties under the new MEA.


11.  For ME operators who still require a licence, those who maintain a good track record may be issued licences with longer validity periods, instead of the standard one-year validity period currently.


For more information on the Massage Establishments regulatory regime, please refer to:



[1] If the tenant refuses to hand over possession of the premises within a month, the landlord is empowered to terminate the lease or tenancy without being liable for breach of agreement with the occupier. Thereafter, if the tenant still refuses to move out, the landlord should apply to the Magistrate's Court for a summary order for the delivery of possession of the premises.

[2] Category I MEs are MEs that are subject to more stringent qualifying criteria (e.g. require CaseTrust accreditation), and allowed more flexible operating conditions (e.g. allowed to operate in public housing estates).

[3] The designated areas are Orchard Road, Marina Centre, Marina Bay, Shenton Way, Collyer Quay, Changi Airport, and within hotels.


Massage Establishments Act Infographic.png

Last Updated on 01 Mar 2018
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