Tuesday,  Aug 21, 2018,11:50 (GMT+7) 0 0
The nasty cheat
By Phuong Thao
Thursday,  Jul 26, 2018,19:17 (GMT+7)

The nasty cheat

By Phuong Thao

Despite the presence of laws, market surveillance agencies and industry associations, consumers are still vulnerable to trade fraud. There are many cunning enterprises out there cheating their clients to make illegal gains. Last year, Khaisilk, then seen as a top Vietnamese silk brand with a history of over 30 years, made a shock revelation that its scarves had been imported from China rather than made locally as assumed by customers long before. The public trust in such a Vietnamese high-end brand vanished in a blink of an eye and the company has never been able to get back to business ever since. But it seems the lesson has not been learned by many businesses eager to make quick bucks out of dishonesty.

In June this year, Mumuso, a home appliance store chain which had been believed to sell South Korean-made products only, was found to cheat consumers as a Korean language expert said that the words on the firm’s products were meaningless. According to Tuoi Tre newspaper, the Korean Intellectual Property Office could not confirm its business activities in the country. This week, Con Cung (Beloved Kid), a retail store chain specializing in mother and baby products, drew fire from the public. According to market monitors, the company violated regulations on goods labeling and origin tracking.

Truong Dinh Cong Vinh, a customer who purchased a baby girl clothing set worth VND329,000 (US$14) from a Con Cung outlet in May, complained on Facebook around 10 days ago that the retailer had replaced the product’s “Made in Thailand” label with another that reads “CF,” which stands for “Con Cung Fashion.” Considering it a serious problem, he filed a complaint with the Vietnam Competition Authority’s consumer protection department.

As Vinh’s Facebook post draw public attention, an inspection into several retail shops of Con Cung in HCMC was launched on July 22-23 by a market surveillance team, with around 5,000 products worth of about VND500 million at three Con Cung shops detained. The website of Phap Luat newspaper cited the HCMC Market Surveillance Agency as saying that the inspection found that this enterprise had shown signs of violating regulations on goods origin and labeling. Some items did not have invoices, documents and clear origins. For many products, the firm put its own labels on the labels printed on the packaging. Especially, labels on cosmetics products for children contain no information as required by the existing rules.

Market monitors said they would verify where the products that were detained originate and that they would take tough sanctions against any acts of fraud committed by the company. As reported by Vnexpress online newspaper, a Con Cung store in District 1 used a stamp with conflicting details about the origin of a belly massage cream item. Also, small “Made in Thailand” cards were attached to hangers with clothing that did not have proper origin stamps or labels. Another store in District 3 was selling several children’s non-prescription eyeglasses with unclear origin.

Nguyen Hong Lieu, head of Con Cung’s legal department, told Thanh Nien newspaper  that the company had recalled nearly 6,000 products and sent apologies and coupons to affected customers in June. These products, which carried a certificate of origin issued by Thai authorities, used materials from Thailand and other ASEAN countries. However, Lieu said they did not meet the company’s standards because they had not been thoroughly inspected. The company is uncertain whether product batches contained faulty items. It is working with authorities in the investigation.

Lieu insisted that the firm did not violate any laws but failed to produce origin certificates of the products detained. “We always follow Vietnamese and international laws as we put customers first… Con Cung is coordinating with authorities in the inspection process and will provide official information to the media,” she told Thanh Nien.

Vinh, a customer who uncovered the scandal, on July 25 announced to sue Con Cung Company. Speaking to the news website zing.vn, Vinh said he did not accept apologies from the firm as it had cheated so many clients, who are mostly parents and put the health and safety of their children first. “I have not received any proper explanations for the origins of the products I bought or other goods at Con Cung stores. I’m waiting for feedback from the consumer protection department before bringing the case to court,” he added.

Lawyer Phan Thi Viet Thu, chairwoman of the HCMC Consumer Protection Association, said the explanation of Con Cung’s representative is unacceptable because it is just a solution to put its PR crisis under control.

“It is unacceptable to put the blame squarely on the Thai manufacturer, as only the two sides (Con Cung and the Thai partner) know their agreement. If the Thai side had made a mistake, Con Cung must have brought its Thai partner to court, instead of using it to explain to consumers,” Thu said on zing.vn.

To regain customer confidence, Thu said, the company must make clear the origins of their products and fully take the blame if violations are found. However, this may never happen as Con Cung was found to commit many other irregularities after two days of inspection by market monitors this week. Therefore, consumers can cast doubt on the origins of the products on the shelves of its stores.

On July 24, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Dang Hoang An issued a decision ordering an examination of the company’s compliance with regulations on production, business, commercial services, competition and consumer protection. The inspection team will focus on scrutinizing product origins and labeling, quality, promotion and e-commerce activities. The team will spend 10 days checking every Con Cung store and production site, starting from the date of issuance of the decision.

Tran Hung, deputy head of the Market Surveillance Agency under the Ministry of Industry and Trade, told Nguoi Lao Dong newspaper website that the department will take tough measures against cheating companies like Con Cung, Khaisilk and Mumuso.

“Enterprises must stick to business ethics, protect their reputation and respect their consumers. On the other hand, consumers should be watchful for trade fraud. Besides, relevant authorities such as customs, consumer protection and quality control agencies, must work together to deal with such dishonest companies.”

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