Sat, Jul 24, 2004 - Page 11 News List

Proposed action over pet food company postponed

COMPENSATION The signature drive that was to take place today was put on hold after Effem Foods released details of its settlements with disgruntled pet owners

By Jackie Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Consumers' Foundation (消基會) yesterday announced that it was postponing a signature drive that was to take place this morning against products manufactured and imported by Effem Foods Tai-wan (美商艾汾), the local distributor of Pedigree dog food.

"We decided to put off -- not to cancel -- the planned boycott activities tomorrow [today]," Hsieh Tian-jen (謝天仁), deputy secretary-general of the non-profit consumers' group, said yesterday.

At a press conference a week earlier, the foundation demanded that Effem make public the compensation packages it is offering to people whose dogs have fallen ill or died from eating Pedigree products. If Effem did not comply, the foundation threatened to call on at least 10,000 people to take part in a signature drive today to protest against the company.

During their last meeting with the company on Thursday night, the foundation tried to persuade Effem to provide customers with transparent information, such as supplying a list of all the items and criteria on which pet owners can base their claims for compensation, rather than reaching individual settlements in private meetings, Hsieh said.

"Around noon today, Effem finally faxed us a table of compensation criteria. We are not satisfied, but what they did has met some of our demands," Hsieh said at a press conference yesterday.

Hsieh said that Effem should also release the minimum and maximum amounts that consumers can claim in each category, such as the initial cost of buying a dog, medical and funeral costs and compensation for pets that have fallen ill.

"This can avoid bargaining or unfair situations," said Hsieh, who is also an attorney.

He said that instead of the planned protest, an activity would be held this morning to sample people's opinions. From 10am until noon, Hsieh and other foundation volunteers will be manning booths at Taipei's Chienkuo Flower Market (建國花市) to record pet owners' dissatisfaction and needs.

Effem, the local representative of the US-based company Mars, stressed again its efforts to meet individual needs of the pet owners through private settlements.

"Everyone's situation is different. You cannot use a formula to resolve nearly 8,000 cases," Effem spokeswoman Josephine Chen (陳興雯) said.

Chen said consumers can receive full compensation only if they provide receipts.

Compensation for psychological trauma would vary depending on the situation, she said.

By Thursday, settlements had been reached in more than 6,500 cases, or 83 percent of the total number of affected pet owners, the company said.

"We believe this can prove that consumers deem our compensation programs to be fair and reasonable," Effem said in a statement issued later yesterday.

Hsieh said that if people feel they have reached an unreasonable settlement with the company, they are welcome to visit the foundation's booths at the flower market today.

This is the second campaign the foundation has planned against an international company. The first was canceled after Nike Taiwan eventually apologized for the way it had handled basketball legend Michael Jordan's visit to Taipei in late May.

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