Those protecting consumers must step up to the plate

BEIJING (China Daily/ANN) - World Consumer Rights Day, which falls on March 15, has been marked in China each year with a big fanfare that is rarely seen in any other country. 

It is a day for the public to air their grievances, culminating in an evening television gala show sponsored by the national broadcaster that highlights fake and shoddy goods as well as unfair and fraudulent business practices that consumers have experienced over the past year. 

It is a TV program that has triggered a high level of enthusiasm among audiences for a long time. Nearly three decades after the show was first staged, it continues to strike a chord with Chinese consumers, only more forcefully now. 

Actually, the number of complaints lodged by consumers and the amount of money involved in such cases have been on a double-digit increase each year, which not only reflects rising consumer awareness, but also shows how formidable the task of consumer rights protection is.

To be fair, government agencies have made efforts, in terms of both market management and supervision and the upgrading of laws, to better protect consumers from dishonest market players.

Yet repeatedly they find themselves hopping from one problem to another, as a new can of worms appears. 

This is because many of the country’s laws and regulations are still to catch up with the new forms and models of consumption in the fast-changing consumer market. For example, the boom in the sharing economy has boosted the fast expansion of the car-sharing and online food-delivery markets. Yet there are still no provisions that can adequately redress consumers’ grievances when they fall victim to malpractices in these new sectors.

Also based on the current legal framework, the cost for consumer rights violations remains low, while consumers have to pay a high price if they seek to safeguard their legal rights, a major reason why they often flinch in such cases. That prompted Zhang Mao, head of the State Administration for Market Regulation, to promise recently that the government will markedly increase the cost for consumer rights violations. The unprecedented 9.1 billion yuan ($1.36 billion) fine slapped on Changsheng Biotech after the drug maker was found responsible for a human rabies vaccine safety scandal marks a good beginning in this regard.

As the Chinese economy is transitioning from an export-driven model to one mainly spurred by domestic consumption, government officials face unprecedented challenges to protect consumers’ rights and interests. They must continue to work hard, and more efficiently, to ensure consumers enjoy worry-free and convenient goods and services. 


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