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December 14, 2011

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Online group-buy scams cited

ONE of the city's leading group-purchase websites,, was fined 30,000 yuan (US$4,712) for posting a fake driving school training course to lure customers, according to the city's market watchdog.

Local industrial and commercial authorities warned consumers about a number of online group purchase scams. Officials have dealt with 31 cases this year, in which some major websites offering such services were punished for cheating consumers. featured a driving school ad, saying people can buy a driving school coupon valued at 1,200 yuan for 200 yuan, and that it could be used at several different schools. The page showed that nearly 700 people bought the coupon, and almost all the comments were positive.

The bureau's investigation, however, found that the one who provided the coupon, surnamed Hu, had no driver-training certificate, and none of the schools listed in the ads were cooperating with Hu, who forged all the positive comments on the website. The bureau fined and ordered it to remove the information from the website.

The bureau said more than 140 people bought the coupon, and the website has accepted refunds. Hu has been detained by Pudong New Area police.

Another case involved, another leading Shanghai-based group-purchase website, which was found to publish fake ads. The website advertised a night in a standard room at the Shanghai Yayue Zhenpin Hotel for 98 yuan against an original price of 288 yuan. The bureau, however, found that the 288 yuan price was only a "label price," and no records could be found at the hotel to support that price.

The case was a typical fake promotion, officials said. was fined 1,000 yuan.

According to a recent survey by a consumer rights commission in 22 cities, nearly 40 percent of consumers do nothing after their rights are violated on group-purchase websites.

More than 20 percent chose to negotiate with the websites on their own but seldom received satisfying results.


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