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March 15, 2011

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Suntory left with sour taste as calorie-free claim found false

DRINKS giant Suntory Shanghai has been fined more than 1.3 million yuan (US$185,710) for falsely claiming that a tea was calorie-free, authorities said yesterday.

Television commercials accompanying the launch last May of "Ganling" bottled oolong tea said it contained "zero calories."

But tests found this to be untrue, said the Shanghai Industrial and Commercial Administrative Bureau.

Its ingredients - provided by the company - showed that it in fact contained 9 kilograms of sugar per 1,000 liters. Tests carried out by the Shanghai Food Quality Supervision and Inspection Center showed that each bottle of Ganling tea contained approximately 19 kilocalories.

The bureau ordered Suntory to stop broadcasting the ads and undo the false perception they caused.

This was among the biggest violation of consumers' rights last year, said the bureau.

Other cases included the tea scam - where foreign consumers are conned into buying overpriced teas and wines at teahouses - and selling fake products online.

The Zhuqing Teahouse in the city was shut down for running a tea scam. Last May, three members of staff persuaded a foreigner to take part in the "tea ceremony."

After the guest had tasted six types of tea, he was charged 2,600 yuan for the tea and room hire. The victim queried the charge and eventually paid 325 yuan. The bureau said the teahouse was simply swindling consumers and canceled its business certificate.

Online sellers selling fake Canon and LG products were also targeted.

The bureau said this year it will continue to crack down on the production and sale of fake goods, especially cell phones, auto parts, garments and electrical appliances.

Meanwhile, consumers buying prepaid cards for services will see their rights better protected after the bureau introduced a sample contract on prepaid card services for beauty salons and bath houses.

This contract says salons must tell consumers before they move premises or close down.


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