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November 15, 2011

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New 'fakes' scandal hits Gaopeng

GROUP-PURCHASE website Gaopeng is once more involved in a consumer dispute for selling low-price, "fake" products - this time fast food discount coupons.

Gaopeng offered buyers a discount for McDonald's, valued at 46 yuan (US$7.2) for 25 yuan. By yesterday, nearly 1,000 consumers had taken up the offer.

McDonald's, however, said the company has "never cooperated with any websites to promote a group purchase," and fake coupons would not be accepted.

The fast food chain said websites and dealers were using its logo fraudulently. The company advised consumers to beware of fake discount coupons and warned they would not be honored.

The group-buying website, partly owned by the world's largest discount site, Groupon, has encountered a string of problems since it was launched in China in March.

It was accused of selling fake Tissot watches to customers last month, later blaming this on a retailer forging of dealership certificate.

In May, it was accused of fixing a lottery when two winners of smartphones turned out to be employees. It fired the vice president in charge of the lottery.

Gaopeng was unavailable to comment on the latest incident, but Shanghai Evening Post said Gaopeng did not cooperate directly with McDonald's but with an electronic coupon dealer.

The newspaper said consumers could not have coupons refunded as Gaopeng was in negotiations with McDonald's.

McDonald's yesterday emphasized it had cooperated only with certain banks and communications and information firms, but never with Gaopeng. It condemned the unauthorized coupon offer and said it retains the right to take legal action.

Group buying has become popular among young people. However, hundreds of group-purchase websites have closed amid accusations of selling fake products or leaking customer information.

In August, Gaopeng closed offices and sacked more than 350 employees as expansion into second- and third-tier cities apparently outstripped its ability to generate income.


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