Passengers Challenge Spring Festival Price Hikes

China’s practice of raising charges for jam-packed public transport services during Spring Festival has been challenged in the courts for the first time.

Li Jinsong, a lawyer in Foshan, south China’s Guangdong Province, took the local transport company to court this month.

He said on January 20 he went to the Foshan Bus Transport Group ticket office to buy a ticket to Jieyang, another city in Guangdong.

Prices posted on the office bulletin board stated a sleeper bus ticket from Foshan to Chaozhou, via Jieyang, was 85 yuan (US$10.25), and for passengers getting off in Jieyang it would cost 80 yuan (US$9.65).

The normal price of the ticket is about 125 yuan (US$15.1), but to attract more passengers, this is usually lowered to 85 yuan.

But the booking clerk told Li that the price had shot up by almost 200 percent to 239 yuan (US$28.8), and that if he got off in Jieyang, he would have to pay the full price of the whole journey.

“Consumers urgently wanting to return to their homelands during Spring Festival for family reunions have had no choice but to buy tickets at these prices,” said Li. “The transport company charged me 239 yuan, but offered a service no different from the 80-yuan service, despite making triple the profit."

A manager from the Foshan Bus Transport Group said the accusation was “unreasonable” and claimed the company was acting in accordance with the regulations of the Guangdong Communications Department, which had earmarked a series of bus lines whose ticket prices could be raised by 100 percent between January 9 and 23.

The Foshan to Chaozhou line was on the list, Ye said.

On February 8, the Foshan City People’s Court placed the case on file for investigation and prosecution.

On some lines, train ticket prices were reportedly to have risen 20 to 30 percent during the Spring Festival holiday.

In Mid-January, Qiao Zhanxiang from north China’s Hebei Province, also a lawyer, applied to the Ministry of Railways for reconsidering raising prices.

Train ticket prices are fixed by the government and the Ministry of Railways has no right to raise them without the State Council’s approval, said Qiao.

The ministry acknowledged the complaint three days after the lawsuit had been filed but no explanations have been given so far.

(China Daily 02/12/2001)

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