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2021-03-25 10:52:15

Smart TVs that force ads on viewers when turned on, an annoyance to many people in China, should have an option to skip ahead, the high court of the eastern Jiangsu province ruled Tuesday.

The Jiangsu Consumer Association, a government-led nonprofit and the plaintiff in the case, shared its victory over Leshi, a domestic appliances company, in a social media post Thursday.

The ruling should mean not just Leshi but all TV makers must comply, the social media post quoted an official at the national-level China Consumers Association as saying.

The association told Sixth Tone’s sister publication The Paper earlier this month that Chinese smart TVs, which offer a range of internet-enabled features, commonly show 15 to 30 seconds of ads at startup.

The Jiangsu Consumer Association filed the lawsuit in 2019 after it had asked seven consumer goods companies to make startup ads skippable, but Leshi only added an option to skip the last five seconds. In court, Leshi argued that the association’s requirement was too harsh and would affect the company’s profits, adding that it had also given consumers the option to choose their own video or pictures to show at startup.

The Jiangsu High People’s Court apparently did not find those arguments convincing. “Smart TV companies including Leshi not allowing consumers to skip the ad until the last five seconds significantly reduced the consumers’ experience of watching TV,” the court said, upholding an earlier verdict that Leshi had appealed.

Earlier, in September, the China Electronics Chamber of Commerce, a domestic industry group, had published a document titled “Technical Specifications for Smart Television Startup Advertisements” that said a “skip ad” option should appear within one second. This regulation was also proposed by the Jiangsu Consumer Association, but it is not legally binding.

“Consumers are often unable to fight for their rights on their own, and can only bear with bad experiences,” a publicity official at the Jiangsu Consumer Association surnamed Wang told Sixth Tone. Although unskippable ads have become an industry standard, that doesn’t mean they’re legal, he added.

Social media users applauded the court’s ruling. “It’s indeed terribly annoying. I bought the TV, but you show ads every day,” one user on microblogging site Weibo wrote in an upvoted comment.

Editor: Kevin Schoenmakers.

(Header image: 500px/People Visual)