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Recall Practice Stirs Public Debate
Shanghai is preparing to draft a new law on the protection of consumers' rights, but some contentious articles within the law are stirring up dispute.

The draft law includes an article requiring local producers to recall flawed products.

If the article is passed, Shanghai will be the first city in the country to set up such a recall system, and it will require all companies and factories, as long as they have a sales agency in the city, to recall their products found to have design or quality problems.

For the consumers, this is no doubt good news. The "imported car" problem that has troubled people for a long time will be redressed if the article is written into the law.

Yet among manufacturers, opinions vary.

A manager with Shanghai Automobile Industry Corp questions the practicality of the article at the present time.

"We still haven't got an unbiased institution conducting professional examinations of products to determine whether they should be recalled or not. It is too early to write the article in the law," he said.

The huge costs of conducting recalls also make producers reluctant to accept the article.

As for those supporting it, they believe the recall system can force companies to raise their products' quality and help improve their competitiveness, said Huang Yu, vice-director of the Legal Affairs Committee of the Shanghai Municipal People's Congress.

Many congress members also consider the addition of "recall" a necessary measure to better protect consumers' rights and check the irresponsible behavior of some producers.

Another article arousing heated dispute concerns the punishment of dishonest dealers who defraud consumers purchasing major items such as houses and automobiles.

In State law, there is an article, which states clearly that dealers who defraud consumers should pay as much as twice the price the consumer paid for the product or service.

The article has met with problems in practice. It has long been disputed among the judiciary as to whether such punishment should also apply to fraudulent actions involving high-cost purchases.

And the dispute has been even more pronounced during the current legislation.

Yet the draft law shows no mercy towards such dishonest dealers.

Zhang Wenwei, director of the Shanghai Industrial and Commercial Administrative Bureau, who participated in the legislation work, said that the seller's intention to cheat consumers on such big items is even more insidious than the actions of small cheats, and that it is appropriate to be strict with them.

To make the draft law more practical, an article defining what constitutes fraud has been included, which says that only those who lie to consumers or deliberately cover up some important facts that lead consumers to make wrong decisions should receive the strict punishment.

Yet there are many legislators who hold that the proposed law is impractical.

"Even if we write in such an article, it can hardly be enforced, as companies will be unable to pay the compensation and be forced into bankruptcy," said Shen Guomin.

(China Daily July 31, 2002)

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