2019-03-14 10:32:58

A whopping 97 percent of Chinese consumers have said their rights were violated in 2018, but only 37 percent chose to defend themselves, according to survey results published Wednesday ahead of the annual World Consumer Rights Day on March 15.

The survey — jointly conducted by tech giant Tencent and Beijing-based Rong360, a provider of finance products and data analysis — found that the majority of violations stemmed from merchants’ strict policies, misleading or false advertisements, and nonconsensual disclosure of consumers’ personal information. Two-thirds of the 11,655 respondents said they had declined to defend their rights because they believed “no one would handle the complaints” and felt daunted by the complicated and time-consuming remediation process.

Among the consumers who actively defended their rights, over 50 percent said that their issue had to be reported multiple times before it was remedied, while just 5 percent said that their problem was resolved in a timely fashion after the complaint.

Moreover, only 14 percent of consumers said they would “resolutely defend their rights” if they encountered infringement, and nearly 30 percent said they would “accept their bad luck and swallow their frustrations.” Another 57 percent said whether to complain “depends on the size of the loss.”

The survey results also identified the sectors in which the violations had occurred. Online shopping topped the list, with relevant infringements reported by about 50 percent of respondents, followed by telecommunications at nearly 27 percent and housing at just over 20 percent.

Chen Fan, a Shanghai native, told Sixth Tone on Wednesday that an electric blanket she had purchased in December on e-commerce platform Taobao broke after just a few days of use. She then spent two weeks in conversation with a customer service representative before finally receiving a free replacement.

“Then it broke again in less than a week, and I just couldn’t be bothered to go through the complicated process again,” Chen said, adding that she ultimately decided to forfeit her rights because of the blanket’s relatively inexpensive price.

Fei Sheng, another consumer from Shanghai, told Sixth Tone on Wednesday that he and his wife had also received inferior goods while shopping online. The couple had spent over 12,000 yuan ($1,800) on grocery-ordering platform Hema Xiansheng over the past year, Fei said, which made them eligible to buy some products at reduced prices.

But in six orders of these discounted products, the food they bought arrived either near or past its expiration date. “We shop on an app that promises to provide consumers with high-quality fresh goods, but sometimes I feel like I’m buying clearance products at a low-end supermarket,” Fei said.

Though Hema Xiansheng always issued him a refund after he complained, Fei said he still considers quitting the platform over the issue. “I think [the company] uses it as a way to get rid of some defective products,” he said, “because most consumers don’t speak out.”

Editors: Layne Flower and David Paulk.

(Header image: A college student picks up packages ordered around China’s annual Singles’ Day shopping extravaganza at Heilongjiang University in Harbin, Heilongjiang province, Nov. 14, 2018. Zhang Tao/Getty/VCG)