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Consumers Griping

The Shanghai Consumers' Association said it received 22,732 complaints and helped consumers get 10.8 million yuan (US$1.3 million) in compensation last year. That's an average compensation of 475 yuan per complaint.

Sixty-two percent of the complaints involved quality problems, while complaints about contracts and prices accounted for 4.6 percent and 4.3 percent, respectively.

When the association analyzed its data by "product," it found that most of the complaints - 23.6 percent - involved the service industry, such as restaurants and hotels. Second and third were disputes involving clothes, 14.3 percent, and communications equipment, 13 percent.

Association officials said that complaints over apartments, mobile phones and online sales skyrocketed.

Last year, the group fielded 1,921 complaints about apartments, up 32 percent from the previous year. The majority were quality related.

"Apartment complaints have been increasing since 1998, and are always difficult for us to solve," said association spokeswoman Lao Jianhong. "Most were about the quality and the measurement of the area."

Lao gave this example: More than 100 apartment owners at 2 Zhongshan Rd. N. in the Dayunsheng residential area complained that the floors of their homes were "penetrated" on International Consumer Rights Day - March 15.

A service department manager for the developer, Yunsheng (Shanghai) Real Estate Construction Co. Ltd., said: "The problems stemmed from the interior decorators that the homeowners hired - not the firm."

The number of complaints about mobile phones soared from 332 in 2000 to 1,620 last year. Ninety percent of the complaints were about poor quality, such as fake batteries and screens that did not work, Lao said. Association officials said the disputes have been easier to solve since the first national consumer-protection regulations governing mobile phones went into effect on November 15.

Similarly, disputes about online sales soared from 22 in 2000 to 74 last year. The No. 1 complaint was that the product delivered was decidedly different from what was shown on the Internet.

Other key concerns: no guarantee for a product's quality, the server offered by the Website couldn't work, and extreme difficulty in getting compensation when consumer interests were violated.

(eastday.com January 29, 2002)

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