WUHAN - A 72-year-old woman, Wang Yulan, has initiated legal procedures against Carrefour after she was falsely accused of stealing in the supermarket, her lawyer said on Tuesday.
Wang's lawyer, Wen Jun, from Dewell & Partners Law Firm, said in a news conference that they filed a lawsuit at the Donghu district court of Wuhan, Hubei province, on Thursday, making two demands.
First, Wang wants Carrefour to issue a public apology to her. The apology letter should be put up in the Carrefour store or in the media.
"We also demand 50,000 yuan ($7,800) in compensation for my wife's psychological injuries," Wang's husband, Yan Fucun, said.
Yan, 76, said they did not mean to extort money from Carrefour, but asked for it as a recognition of their dignity.
"Besides the money that would be spent on litigation costs, I will donate the rest to charity," Yan said.
Wang earlier said she went to the store's Guanggu branch in Wuhan to buy cereal on Oct 18. She picked up 20 packs of a particular brand and was given another four as promotional gifts by a supermarket saleswoman. However, when she arrived at the checkout, the cashier insisted Wang pay for all 24 packs, which led to an argument. The saleswoman later denied she said the extra packs were free.
A store supervisor led Wang to an office, allegedly accused her of theft and had her sign a form and pose for photos.
Wang and her husband returned to the store the next day with the local media to demand an explanation.
Carrefour China then apologized for the incident on its Sina micro blog on Oct 21, saying the managers and staff members involved have visited Wang's home and apologized.
The company also sent three apology letters to Wang on Oct 22, 24 and 25.
Wang did not show up at the news conference on Tuesday.
Wang's daughter, Yan Hua, 48, said her mother could not sleep well since the incident.
Yan said they had wanted to approach consumer associations, instead of going to court, but Carrefour refused to cooperate.
In response, Eric Legros, vice-president of Carrefour Group and president of Carrefour China, told China Daily on Tuesday: "We made a mistake and we apologized four times. Four times, you know."
"We have done." He said Carrefour would not do anything more about it.
Wen Jun said this case was especially meaningful for Chinese consumers, as it showed that they usually were not afraid to seek legal intervention to defend their rights.
"The supermarket's management strategies come with potential risks," he added.
For instance, Wen said the company launched a bonus scheme that offered employees money and paid vacation time if they caught a thief in the store.
"I hope this case will be a warning for the staff who want to get a bonus by resorting to such an immoral method," Wen said.