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Food Safety, Real Estate Top China’s Consumer Complaint List

Chinese consumers are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the products and services they buy, with food safety one of their top concerns, the China Consumer Association said Tuesday.

Food safety offenses mostly involved poor product quality, especially for fresh produce and groceries bought online, illegal or excessive food additives, and a lack of Chinese language labeling and hygiene licenses for imported goods, according to the consumer rights watchdog. About 68% of the 551,780 consumer complaints — up 5.7% from the same period last year — that the association received in the first half of 2022 were about food issues.

The association called for relevant authorities to strengthen regulations on pre-prepared meals and group buying, which became popular among Shanghai residents during the lockdown.

Shanghai resident Sun Liyan told Sixth Tone that she felt deceived after finding out that a noodle shop that she regularly goes to served pre-cooked food.

“I go to the restaurant for freshly made noodles,” she said. “Selling pre-prepared food is fine, but they should at least let customers know.”

Besides food-related concerns, complaints involving property purchases surged by 23% in the first six months of 2022, the CCA said. Most complaints involved “rotten-tail” buildings, or unfinished construction projects that real estate developers failed to complete as promised.

The increasing number of rotten-tail buildings underlines the challenges faced by Chinese real estate developers like Evergrande, the country’s top property developer that fell from grace last year after racking up more than $300 billion in liabilities. China’s State Council has approved a 300 billion yuan ($44 billion) bailout fund in an attempt to help real estate companies finish stalled projects.

The CAC also tapped on issues ranging from safety concerns regarding cosmetic surgery, to financial security in the gaming sector, telecommunications, and online education services. Authorities said they are also trying to protect consumer rights by taking a tougher stance on illegal pricing practices such as price discrimination.

China’s consumer right awareness has increased over the past few decades, with the annual “315 Evening Gala” on state broadcaster China Central Television calling out companies for violating consumer rights. Held on March 15 to commemorate the World Consumer Rights Day, the show has targeted firms including e-commerce giant Alibaba, Apple, and Burger King over the years.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: Visual elements from VCG, reedited by Sixth Tone)

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