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March 13, 2013

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Couriers' access to private data making consumers vulnerable

SHANGHAI YTO Express has apologized to a local customer after a delivery man threatened to spread her personal information on the Internet if she complained, a courier firm official said yesterday.

The customer, surnamed Fu, called after a courier was late in picking up a package, asking him to come right away because it was urgent.

The delivery man not only refused but also threatened her by saying "if you dare to lodge a complaint against me, I will publicize all your personal information on the Internet," Fu said.

She said she feared she would be harassed by sales calls if her information were compromised.

"It was totally unacceptable that my information on the chart was seized upon by the delivery man," Fu said.

Fu did lodge a complaint, and the firm's branch manager together with the delivery worker went to Fu's home the next day to apologize. The delivery man also wrote down a guarantee to keep her personal information safe.

YTO has punished the man with a salary cut and started new training for all its staff to prevent similar incidents, said Lang Hongfei, a spokesman for the firm.

Leaks of private information have become one of the major problems of the courier industry in China, said Li Bin, director of the Customer Complaints Reception Center of the State Post Bureau.

The center received 192,000 complaints in 2012, and 27 percent were about company couriers, including some about information leaks, Li said.

An industry has grown up around such leaks. On a website called Dan114, customers' courier chart numbers from major firms including YTO, Yunda and ZTO are being sold at 0.4 yuan (6.4 US cents) to 1 yuan each.

"Some online retailers buy the information to forge trading records to increase the credibility for their online stores," said an online mobile-phone store owner surnamed Han.

Merchants can create fake favorable reviews of their services using such information, Han said.

New regulations tougher

Courier service managers can be fined 5,000 yuan to 10,000 yuan if couriers are found collecting or selling personal information of customers, according to the Courier Industry Regulation issued by the Ministry of Transport that took effect this month.

They will also face criminal charges if the behavior constitutes crimes, the regulation said.

"The State Post Bureau has requested all major courier firms to strengthen supervision of their franchise stores, where private information leaks are most likely to happen," Li said.

The bureau said the headquarters of courier firms also will be punished if any franchise stores were found leaking information, Li told reporters.

The courier business has been expanding rapidly across China with the boom in online commerce. The number of delivery workers is greater than 800,000 nationwide and has been increasing by about 200,000 annually, according to the bureau. Some 30 million parcels are delivered across China every day.

Most courier firms let managers at franchise stores recruit and supervise their workers, which can compromise the quality of their services.


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