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Shoppers of the world unite on rights
By Guan Xiaofeng (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-03-16 06:09

Chinese shoppers celebrated World Consumers' Rights Day by Internet voting on issues that concern them most. Consumer's rights were the topic of the day for the online activity co-sponsored by the China Consumers' Association and the website www.sohu.com.

Chinese netizens chose "the 10 most difficult and hot fields in the protection of consumers' rights."

Theses include unfair contract articles made by operators, false advertising and food quality and safety. Medical services, education fees, fees for SMS and other sales tricks were also topics that angered consumers.

Wu Gaohan, deputy secretary-general of the association, critici-zed the "unreasonable price" phenomena. For instance, some restaurants do not allow customers to bring in their own drinks but charge for opening a bottle of wine. And some restaurants charge fees for chopsticks.

"It's totally unacceptable to charge fees for chopsticks," said Xiao Wang, a Beijing resident. "According to this logic, won't they then charge us for plates and tables?"

The activity also included a voting on "the 10 most oppressed cases in the protection of consumers' rights." They refer to those cases in which consumers have a strong argument but still lose the battle for lack of government or judicial support, Wu explained. A dispute about a medical service topped the list of the 10 worst consumer exploitation cases.

On December 14 last year, the Beijing No 2 Intermediate People's Court turned down an accusation raised by two plaintiffs who suffered from kidney failure after taking some longdan xiegan pills produced by the TongRenTang, a famous traditional Chinese medicine company.

The court judged their disease could not be proved to have relationship with the pills. The plaintiffs' argument, however, was that the pill contained an ingredient that caused their disease.

"We are more concerned about the structural factors behind these cases," Wu said.

(China Daily 03/16/2005 page2)

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