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December 13, 2011

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Group-purchase online sites leave a bitter taste

ABOUT 60 percent of consumers who have participated in online group purchases have had their rights violated at least once, according to a survey carried out by a consumer rights watchdog from 22 cities, including Shanghai, Beijing and Shenzhen, officials said yesterday.

Only 16 percent of the respondents said they were satisfied with the group purchase, where consumers buy a coupon at a discount to use at a local business. Consumers complained that the service they received was worse than group purchase websites advertised, and the refunding process was rather complicated.

A consumer surnamed Li said she bought a billiard coupon from, a group purchase website. But when she went to the billiard bar, she was told that the coupon could not be used.

The billiard bar explained that 13 outlets accepted the coupon, out of 30 such outlets across the city. Li said it's unreasonable that the website didn't explain the situation to consumers nor support online refunding.

The Shanghai Commission of Consumers' Rights and Interests Protection said many group-purchase sites set up very confusing terms for use, exchanges or refunds, and consumers often neglect the terms when they buy the service.

According to the survey, near 40 percent of the consumers said they just "let it be" after their rights were violated and another 25 percent said they would negotiate with the websites. And only 7 percent were satisfied with the process and results of negotiation if they had a problem.

The commission said consumers should be alert, keeping invoices and trade records, in case they need to turn to authorities for help. Meanwhile, a reputation-assessment system should be set up for group-purchase websites, it said.

Officials said consumers have gradually lost their confidence in group-purchase websites, and regulations would actually support the newly rising industry by giving it some much-needed credibility.


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