High profile cases in consumer rights

Shanghai Star. 2002-03-14
A man complains to local government officials about consumer rights in this file photo.

Fake chairs

Everyone agrees that the rights of retail consumers must be protected by the law, but should a buyer at an auction be protected by the Protection of Consumer Rights Law?

Last November, an auction dispute over four chairs ignited a debate on which law should protect buyers at auctions: the Protection of Consumer Rights Law or the Auction Law.

Wu Tiesheng, a local resident, bought four mahogany chairs said to be made between 1911 and 1949 at an auction held by Shanghai Dekang Auction Co. However, several days after making the purchase, Wu found that the chairs were fakes, and asked the company and Zhang Qi, the former owner of the chairs, to return both the principal and the commission, which totalled 44,000 yuan ($5,320).

Wu insisted that he had been cheated and demanded compensation of 44,000 yuan ($5,320). Wu invoked the Consumer Rights Law for protection.

Dekang denied the charges of fraud, saying that the firm believed the chairs were originals. The company pointed out, under the Auction Law, they were not responsible for the authenticity of goods, as long as they did not intentionally sell fraudulent goods.

Although Wu said he bought the chairs for personal consumption, the Shanghai No. 2 Intermediate People's Court still applied the Auction Law and the Contract Law to the case as Zhang had entrusted the chairs to the company, making the relationship between Dekang and Wu one of broker and buyer. However, the court said the two defendants could not avoid their responsibilities.

As a result, the court ordered Zhang to return 40,000 yuan ($4836.8) to Wu. If he should fail to return the money, it was determined that the company should pay the amount. The company also was ordered to return the commission of 4,000 yuan ($483.7) to Wu.

Defective car

In early February, as Chinese consumers were denouncing the quality defect in Mitsubishi Pajero vehicles which caused a series of accidents around the country, Shanghai Changning District People's Court ordered the company to pay 60,000 yuan ($7,200) in compensation to a local consumer for the quality flaw.

In 1997, Zhang Juhong bought a Pajero V33 for 510,000 yuan ($61,669).

She noticed an abnormal sound coming from the engine soon after she purchased the car, and complained to the company.

After some acrimonious haggling, the firm agreed to replace the engine free of charge in 1998. However, a year later, Zhang found that the engine still had problems.

Zhang decided to file suit against the company last year, claiming that the company's behaviour constituted fraud. She referred to the Protection of Consumer Rights Law and asked for a full refund together with compensation equal to the value of the original purchase price of the car.

During investigation, the court found that the company had only replaced some defective parts and not the entire engine as it had claimed. In addition, the refurbished engine lacked a serial number.

The court decided that the quality defect could be attributed to the design, but the company cheated the plaintiff through false repair claims.

Hair row

Lush, eyecatching 1.3-metre length hair had become Guo Min's trademark, but her 16-year efforts was destroyed in a hair salon last September.

Guo went a familiar salon in her neighbourhood to get her hair washed, but her hair became tangled during the process. After failing to untangle her hair, the boss resorted to scissors.

Furious, the young woman sued the salon for compensation. To Guo, her hair was a source of pride and confidence. She once starred in a TV commercial for shampoo. The accident in the hair salon left her so distraught, she went to stay with her mother in Nanjing.

Last month, Hongkou District People's Court decided that it was the fault of the salon assistant that caused the damage to Guo's hair. The salon was ordered to pay 5,000 yuan ($604) as spiritual compensation to Guo.

Lan Lan

Copyright by Shanghai Star.