Consumers who have purchased MOTIF cosmetics products, which were found to contain banned ingredients, should receive full refunds with or without receipts, the Consumers' Foundation (
Refunds should be given even if customers only can show empty bottles or small boxes as proof of purchase, said Terry Huang (黃怡騰), publisher of the nonprofit organization's magazine Consumer Reports of Taiwan, claiming it was required by the Consumer Protection Law (消費者保護法).
"When products have been proved to be harmful to people, manufacturers should shoulder responsibility by reimbursing customers without conditions," he said by telephone.
The Taichung branch of the Ministry of Justice found on Friday that MOTIF, a brand of expensive cosmetics available at department stores and through online shopping Web sites, had banned substances in its products, including the antibiotic Lincomycin and Dexamethasone, a steroid.
MOTIF had claimed to be an Australian firm but the products were in reality being produced at an underground Taichung County factory.
One of the company's products, which it claimed could cure acne, was sold at department stores for NT$1,800, although it cost less than NT$33 to produce.
Investigators estimated that the company had made more than NT$100 million (US$3 million) in profits.
MOTIF's employees will be charged with violation of the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law (藥事法) and fraud, investigators said.
MOTIF's counters at Shin Kong Mitsukoshi Department Store (
"We are surprised that MOTIF has sold illegal products. The brand is quite popular with our shoppers and many of them have come to ask for refunds over the weekend," a public relations official with Pacific Sogo Department Store said.
But these major retailers demand that consumers seeking refunds provide receipts as proof of purchase, which Huang said was unreasonable.
Consumers are advised to contact their local governments if they are denied refunds.
In the wake of the cosmetics scam, the Department of Health announced that it would team up with the Consumers' Foundation and introduce a new monitoring mechanism, as well as conducting random inspections of cosmetics available via Internet, TV and radio ads.
The first wave of checks will be conducted in Taipei, Taichung Kaohsiung, Pingtung, Hualien and Taitung, as well as in Taipei and Taichung counties.
The department said on its Web site that it would investigate brands with ads that exaggerate the qualities of their products.
The investigation will focus on whether the samples contain Western medicine, such as antibiotics or steroids, or heavy metals, including lead, cadmium and mercury.