Celebrating Chinese Consumers On March 15

March 14, 2008 | Print | Email Email | Comments | Category: Viewpoints

By ChinaCSR.com Editors
Shoppers in China unite! March 15 is World Consumer Rights Day, and the China Consumers' Association treats March 15 with special significance: consumer complaint hotlines have "3-15" as their prefix and billboards around China are emblazoned year-round with san yao wu.

Two years ago, the General Chamber of Commerce of Beijing's Chaoyang District and the Consumer Rights Protection Association launched a fund worth RMB100,000 to maintain a database of consumers' complaints, businesses' credit ratings, and banking details. The fund periodically awards companies for sound business practices. For 2007, the China Consumers' Association created "Harmonious Consumption" as its theme for the year. According to the group, Harmonious Consumption means establishing a harmonious consumption concept within the entire society. It requires operators, consumers, government agencies and related departments to fulfill their social responsibility in order to create a sound market environment and to promote the construction of a harmonious society.

Consumerism has been very active in China over the last decade. On March 20, 1999, "Legal Daily" staff reporter Jiang De wrote an article on Wang Hai suing the Consumer Rights Protection Court director. Wang Hai is China's most famous consumer advocate and in 1999 he felt the court was violating his personal dignity. Since that early case, Wang Hai and others have trumpeted consumers' rights, especially as more Chinese have more money to spend and want great value for their purchases.

World Consumer Rights Day has its origins in former U.S. President John F. Kennedy's declaration of four basic consumer rights: the right to safety; the right to be informed; the right to choose; and the right to be heard. "Consumers by definition, include us all," Kennedy said in his March 15, 1962 declaration to the U.S. Congress. "They are the largest economic group, affecting and affected by almost every public and private economic decision. Yet they are the only important group… whose views are often not heard."

World Consumer Rights Day was first observed on March 15, 1983. Two years later, on April 9, 1985, the United Nations' General Assembly adopted the UN Guidelines for Consumer Protection, following a decade of hard lobbying by Consumers International, then known as IOCU, and consumer organizations. The Guidelines embrace the principles of the eight consumer rights and provide a framework for strengthening national consumer protection polices.

Over the last year, many government departments at all levels in China and in many sectors have stepped up surveillance and checks on shops and in products. Along with frequent product recalls on toys and food in the last year, the Chinese government has pushed for stricter oversight. Pu Changcheng, the vice-director of China's State General Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, has announced that during the recent special examination of product quality and food safety, AQSIQ examined and registered all toy manufactures and thoroughly investigated the 3,000 companies which manufacture or supply export toys from China. More than 600 companies' export licenses were canceled as a result of this inspection. This is good news for consumers.

In the travel sector, airlines, hotels, and travel agents are pushing to greater transparency for tourists. Several airline companies in China, including Shenzhen Airlines, Hainan Airlines and Sichuan Airlines, have each launched their own measures for compensating consumers when they are bumped on overbooked flights. At the end of November 2007, Shenzhen Airlines published a letter to consumers about the sales of additional air tickets, in which it said that it would give priority in arranging a seat on a following flight for passengers who are delayed because they are bumped. They also said they would compensate passengers for the interval between the departure time of the new flight and their original one.

In November 2007, Xiang Ping, deputy director of the Sports Service Department of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, disclosed at a press conference that BOCOG has canceled agreements with eight Olympic signed hotels for such reasons as improper renovation processes, remote locations and inactive reservation services. And previous to that, the China National Tourism Administration formally promulgated and implemented its first Tourism Resource Protection Measure to strengthen the protection on tourism resources and promote the healthy, harmonious and sustainable development of the tourism industry. The new measure says that travel destinations that hold tourist reception activities should make a regulation about safe operations during the peak travel periods and announce the tourist flows and the maximum reception capacity of the scenic spots.

For consumers using the Internet, Chinese Internet auction users have a new service to help protect them from fraud as Alipay, China's largest independent and third-party payment platform, announced the launch of a seller credit program in cooperation with China Construction Bank. Alipay seller credit service is based on the credit of Taobao.com's users and their interactions with the Alipay service. Taobao is owned by Alibaba, which also owns Alipay, and is an online trading platform. CCB is the loan lending party, but all procedures of loan applications and returns will be done within a user's Alipay account.

And consumers will be able to make better-informed purchasing choices of broadband Internet service providers following the publication of performance pledges by five Internet service providers in Hong Kong. This is a joint initiative of Hong Kong's Office of the Telecommunications Authority and the industry aiming at increasing the transparency of the service performance of and level of customer satisfaction with the broadband Internet service market. The performance pledges will cover areas such as network reliability, service restoration time, technical performance, customer hotline performance and customer complaint handling. These are areas identified by a survey commissioned by OFTA in 2007 as either very important or important to consumers when choosing an ISP. The pledges are the service standards which the concerned ISPs will use their best endeavors to meet.

Each day of the year should be World Consumer Rights Day. As China continues to develop its legal remedies for consumers and companies adhere to new laws, consumers will have better value for the products they purchase.

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