Sat, Feb 05, 2005 - Page 10 News List

Consumer watchdog decries poor labeling on New Year meals

By Jackie Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

An official from the Consumers' Foundation yesterday announces the results of a survey of all New Year dishes provided by Taiwan's five major convenience-store chains, two supermarkets and one hypermarket chain.

PHOTO: CNA

Do you know you will need an oven or microwave to reheat Lunar New Year dishes bought from local retailers?

Some consumers don't know this, because the information is not specified in advertising for the frozen meals, which can cost thousands of NT dollars.

The Consumers' Foundation (消基會) examined catalogues printed by five major convenience store chains, two supermarkets and one hypermarket chain to check whether they provide full information on their fly sheets.

The result was disappointing, as only one company -- Hi-Life International Co (萊爾富) -- was found to provide detailed instructions on the re-heating process, including how long it takes to heat the food and what electric appliances are required to prepare the family reunion dinner.

Five out of the eight of the sheets failed to provide nutritional information, depriving consumers of the right to know how many calories and fat they will take in, the foundation's chairman Jason Lee (李鳳翱) said at a press conference yesterday.

While buyers can designate which date they want the meals delivered to their doorstep, none of the companies can promise whether the dishes will be delivered in the morning, afternoon or evening.

Unpredictable traffic conditions are the main reason, said Esther Lin (林翠娟), public relations specialist of Taiwan Family-Mart Co (全家便利商店).

"We did notify consumers about the situation and 90 percent chose to pick up their orders at our outlets, which also saves them the NT$150 required for home delivery," she said.

The two supermarket chains, Wellcome (頂好) and Matsusei (松青), as well as hypermarket chain Carrefour Taiwan, were singled out in the survey, which showed they need to improve labeling for instructions on reheating, nutrition and the weight of the food, as well as whether free refunds are provided.

According to Article 19 of the Consumer Protection Law (消保法), consumers who buy mail order products have the right to demand refunds within seven days of receiving the products, without having to give a reason or incur extra costs, Lee said.

But Matsusei, the nation's second-largest supermarket chain, stipulates a NT$500 charge for refunds, which Lee said is ridiculous.

Regrettably, relevant regulations do not stipulate penalties for the mail-order segment, allowing business operators to repeatedly fail to offer sufficient information and therefore disregard consumers' rights and interests, Lee said.

The stores examined in the survey included 7-Eleven, FamilyMart, Hi-Life, OK, Nikomart, Wellcome, Matsusei and Carrefour.

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