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Consumers -- it's time to fight back

Consumers are being warned to sign a contract to protect their privacy and their rights before sending their computers off to be repaired.

Local industrial and commercial authorities have posted several sample contracts on their Website, which cover a range of services from computer repair to house moving to mark the World Consumer Rights Day, which is tomorrow.

The sample computer repair contract states that repairers must not copy or publish any information on the computer.

The security of hard disks grabbed public attention last year after sex photos were stolen from Chinese-Canadian entertainer Edison Chen's computer when he took it to be repaired. The photos were posted online.

The sample contract also stated a warranty period for the repairs, so if the computer has the same problem within a certain period, it will be repaired for free.

The Shanghai Indus°?trial and Commercial Administrative Bureau received the most complaints about computers and cell phones last year.

The house moving sample contract set out clearly how much the move would cost, to prevent removals companies throwing in extra charges at random, officials said.

Sample contracts can be found on the bureau's Website ( Only Chinese versions are available.


Although complaints about tourism fell last year compared to 2007, shopping while on group tours was once again the source of many gripes, with tourists complaining about the stores they were brought to and the quality of the items they were offered.


A tourist surnamed Li went to Hong Kong last year with his wife. The trip was organized by a domestic tour agency with a good reputation.

When the tour guide took them to the Marcello and Louis Tax Free International Department Store, the couple bought a Fujitsu Fujimart T8 camera at a good price. However, the pictures the camera took were low-quality.

Back home, when the couple did some research on the Internet, they found that Fujitsu doesn't make a camera called Fujimart T8.


The Shanghai Tourism Quality Supervising Office reminded tourists who go to Hong Kong and Macau to be careful about buying expensive products, such as digital cameras and jewels, as their tour guide might recommend counterfeits or low-quality imitations.

Tourists are advised to sign a contract with their tour agency that states the agency will compensate its tourists if they are sold counterfeit goods on the recommendation of their guide.


As yet, no laws regulate cell phone quality, and complaints are on the increase. In 2008, mobile phone and computers topped complaints at the Shanghai Commission of Consumers' Rights and Interests Protection.


A consumer surnamed Fan bought a cell phone on, one of China's biggest online auction Websites, for 830 yuan (US$118) in December. Four days later, when he received the phone, he found it didn't work as it should. When he asked the online seller for a refund, the seller said the cell phone was a shanzhai product - a fake - and refused to refund any money. Fan complained to the commission, as the store owner hadn't described the phone as a shanzhai.


The term shanzhai is used to describe products that have names similar to famous brands but are made by other firms. Such cell phones are cheap, they often work fine and look like their expensive counterparts, but they have hidden problems, said the commission.

Shanzhai products usually don't have any warranty period, so if something goes wrong with them, the consumer loses out. Quality inspections have also shown fake cell phones sometimes give off higher levels of radiation.


Complaints about air tickets have increased every year for the past few years by about 70 percent. Unfortunately, more than 60 percent of the complaints could not be dealt with, as consumers bought airlines tickets from unlicensed ticket agencies, said the airport affairs office with the Shanghai Commission of Consumers' Rights and Interests Protection.


A man surnamed Zeng was preparing to board a plane at Hongqiao International Airport last November, according to the itinerary stated on his e-ticket. But he was told by the ground crew that the flight was leaving from Pudong International Airport. On closer inspection, the airline staff determined his ticket was a fake. Zeng said he booked the e-ticket over the phone after reading an advertisement in a newspaper.

He paid 1,800 yuan (US$263) for the ticket. Though Zeng called the city's consumers' hotline (12315) immediately, officials failed to trace the company that took his money.


Before buying an e-ticket, consumers should make sure they're buying from a legal travel agency. They should also be aware of whether their tickets are refundable or whether they can be changed, and what liability the tour agency has in the event of flight cancelation.


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