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December 13, 2013

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WOW!CITY leaves behind angry diners

IN yet another case where prepaid card holders were left in a lurch, a Taiwan-based hotpot chain restaurant has pulled the shutters on all its outlets without as much as informing its clientele.

Authorities are investigating the closure of WOW!CITY after angry diners complained with the industrial and commercial administrative bureau.

A netizen named “Shenchengzhihua” said he had more than 1,300 yuan (US$209) left unused in his prepaid card.  The restaurant did not inform him of the closure or offer refunds. “I want the company to give a reasonable explanation and refund money,” he said.

Another netizen, “Chixi-hemei,” said she had used the card twice after paying 1,000 yuan, and still had more than 600 yuan in balance.

At the Golden Eagle Square outlet, the branch was covered with a giant cloth, without any notice. A staff worker at a beauty salon next to it said the outlet had been closed for several months.

WOW!CITY has not issued any statement regarding the closures.

It had 12 branches in the city and had started off with a registered capital of US$510,000 in 2004.

The Shanghai Commission of Commerce said it had contacted the representatives of the company and told them to offer refunds to the consumers. The restaurant, which reportedly agreed to offer refunds, could not be reached  when contacted by this paper.

Disputes over prepaid cards is becoming all too common in the city, with no settlements or punishments awarded to anybody. The Shanghai Consumer Rights Protection Commission said it had received more than 5,300 complaints regarding prepaid cards this year.

It is demanding an amendment to the consumer protection regulations.

“There is a legal vacuum regarding such cards,” said Tao Ailian, executive deputy secretary general of the commission.

China’s commerce authorities came up with regulations over prepaid cards last year. Businesses are now required to register with local commerce authorities within 30 days after issuing prepaid cards, or else they stand to face a fine of up to 30,000 yuan. But it is not much of a deterrent and most companies seem to have ignored the order.

Earlier this week, all nine branches of Marie France Bodyline in the city either shut down or stopped providing services, leaving card holders fuming.



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