China's TV shoppers cheated by infomercials: Survey

CHINA - Nearly half of TV shoppers say they have been cheated at least once and most didn't complain, according to a survey released on Thursday.

The survey, conducted by the website of the People's Daily and a Beijing-based polling agency, indicated that 14.3 per cent of respondents had engaged in TV shopping and 45 per cent of them said they had been cheated.

However, only 8.3 per cent of the victims tried to get their money back and only 5 per cent said they are satisfied with advertisers' efforts to protect their consumer rights.

In the survey, 75.6 per cent of those who claimed to have been cheated said they did not get a reply to their complaints, while 12.5 per cent got only partial compensation and only with great difficulty.

The most common reasons for not complaining were that doing so is "too troublesome" and "there will be no results".

A total of 1,783 respondents across the nation were interviewed for the study.

Television services in China are crammed with TV shopping advertisements, the low quality of which has prompted criticism.

The State General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television recently issued a notification that satellite TV channels must place limits on their shopping advertisements starting from Jan 1.

The media body ruled that adverts can be aired no more than once per hour and for no more than three minutes at a time. The same advertisement should be aired no more than three times per day.

The notification also banned infomercials from 6 pm to 12 pm and said they must refrain from particular sales techniques, including simulated news reporting and news anchors. Exaggerated hawking voices, are also banned, along with exaggerated actions.

The infomercials should carry the label "advertisement" at the top right-hand corner of the screen, while certain words, such as "orthopedic", "shaping" and "fat reduction", should be banned in the promotion of firming and weight-loss products.

A spokesman for the administration, who requested to remain anonymous, said several satellite TV channels air infomercials with exaggerated and fake content repeatedly and for long periods. He said this conflicts with the interests of viewers and negatively affects the social image of radio and television.

Jiangsu TV and Shanghai Dragon TV said they don't broadcast infomercials any more because they take up more air time than normal adverts, while the profits are not high enough to justify the air time, according to Beijing News.

Liu Junhai, an expert in consumer rights protection law at Renmin University of China said that TV shopping is convenient for many consumers, but false advertisements and substandard goods will erode consumers' confidence and the credibility of TV shopping.

"TV stations should strictly check infomercials," Liu said, adding that consumers should be alert when they see an advertisement promoting a very cheap product.

Chang Jiang, a lecturer from the university's school of journalism and communication, said consumers who choose to buy goods after watching infomercials are mostly middle-aged people in remote areas, with younger people preferring to shop online.

Xinhua contributed to this story.