New Zealand souvenir company fined for ripping off Asian tourist

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, December 12, 2014
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An Auckland souvenir company and its boss have been fined more than a quarter of 1 million dollars for ripping of Chinese and South Korean tour groups with fake products, New Zealand's Commerce Commission said Friday.

Wild Nature NZ Ltd. was fined 243,444 NZ dollars (189,598 U.S. dollars) and its director Sung Ho (Stanley) Park was fined 25,000 NZ dollars (19,470 U.S. dollars) at the Auckland District Court after admitting more than 30 charges of making false representations about expensive alpaca and merino wool products for sale to tourists from the Chinese mainland and China's Taiwan and South Korea.

They were the last of eight souvenir companies and seven directors to be sentenced after the Commerce Commission launched an investigation in 2011 with the support of Police, Customs, Immigration Service and the Wildlife Enforcement Group.

Fines imposed by the court across all prosecutions now totaled 1.15 million NZ dollars (895,639 U.S. dollars), said a statement from the commission.

Tourists in organized tour groups were ferried to Wild Nature's premises, where they were sold "New Zealand made" Alpaca rugs that actually came from Peru.

Wild Nature created and displayed certificates claiming the rugs had the approval of professional entities that did not exist.

The firm also admitted offering duvets for sale labeled as containing exclusively or predominantly alpaca or merino wool fiber, but actually had only a small amount of alpaca fibers and no merino wool.

Tourists paid up to 4,000 NZ dollars (3,115 U.S. dollars) per rug -- up to four times more than they would have paid elsewhere for properly labeled rugs -- while the duvets, made for approximately 70 NZ dollars (55 U.S. dollars), were sold for up to 1,000 NZ dollars (779 U.S. dollars).

Commission chairman Mark Berry said Wild Nature's behavior displayed a callous disregard for the law and New Zealand's tourism reputation.

"They had no other goal but to rip tourists off and reap the rewards. This behavior is damaging to our reputation as a tourist destination and also harms other law-abiding tourism businesses by association, as tourists may question who they can trust," Berry said in the statement.

"While we are pleased that this investigation has been successfully concluded, we still have concerns about parts of New Zealand's organized Asian tour group industry. Hopefully these prosecutions serve as a deterrent to anyone who believes they can get away with fleecing tourists, but regardless the industry can be assured we will continue to target this behaviour," said Berry.

The commission was currently investigating other companies for similar conduct. Endi

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