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March 14, 2012

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E-buying stirs more complaints

E-COMMERCE, including so-called group-purchase websites, became the biggest hot spot of consumers' complaints last year, local consumers' rights watchdogs said yesterday.

The Shanghai Commission of Consumers' Rights and Interests Protection said it received more than 11,350 cases on e-commerce, up 161 percent on 2010. Consumers encountered a wide range of problems, including fake promotion, low product quality, slow delivery and bad service, said the commission.

For example, several consumers complained to the commission in February last year that they made a group purchase of driving lesson coupons for 200 yuan (US$31.60) each. They then signed a contact with a man who claimed to be an official with a driving school, and paid another 2,500 yuan as a "training fee." When they went to the class, however, they were told the contract was invalid because the school never had any cooperation with the group-purchase website. The website refused to provide refunds until the commission intervened.

The commission cited a lack of specific laws to regulate e-commerce, which is rising quickly in China. Consumers have little recourse when they have disputes with online sellers. Officials said e-commerce websites should verify that all the promotion information published on their sites is genuine.

Another area for rising consumer complaints last year was food safety. The commission received more than 8,400 cases on food safety, up nearly 80 percent over 2010. Consumers complained that some supermarkets sold decayed or expired food, causing acute stomach or intestinal tract diseases.

Complaints about utilities also rose sharply last year, with Internet service and overcharges for electric power up 32 percent on 2010.


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