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    China Bans ‘Beauty Loan’ Ads That Promise ‘Free’ Plastic Surgery

    Sky-high interest rates trap young, beauty-obsessed consumers in debt.

    Commercials for “beauty loans,” which commonly allow mostly young clients to undergo cosmetic treatments with no up-front payments but then hit them with higher-than-promised interest rates, can no longer be aired on TV, radio, or online, China’s National Radio and Television Administration announced on Monday.

    The administration said many such ads promoted over-consumption and were “deceptive,” enticing people with phrases such as “free surgery” but neglecting to mention the true interest costs.

    Such schemes have existed for years and are similar to recently banned “campus loans,” which targeted cash-strapped university students and then trapped them in debt. On Tuesday, China Youth Daily, the Chinese Youth League’s newspaper, reported on a case where a young woman took out a loan to pay for cosmetic surgery but wasn’t told the annualized interest rate would be as high as 27%.

    Lian You, a Beijing-based lawyer specialized in civil and commercial contract disputes, told Sixth Tone that banning ads for beauty loans could be an effective way to thwart the companies behind them. He added that clinics often work together with loan providers only to later vanish and leave customers in debt.

    Fueled by celebrity worship and social media, China’s under-regulated plastic surgery market is expanding rapidly. Consultancy iResearch predicts that it will be worth over 300 billion yuan ($46 billion) by 2023, but in the same report noted that, compared to 13,000 legally operating clinics, there were 80,000 unregistered cosmetic surgery businesses in the country.

    With complaints about plastic surgery mishaps increasing, the government has begun taking steps to rein in the industry. Last month, a different department published plans to prohibit cosmetic surgery ads that played on people’s insecurities.

    Editor: Kevin Schoenmakers.

    (Header image: A woman receives skin care treatment at a beauty parlor in Tianjin, June 10, 2018. People Visual)