Fri, Apr 30, 2010 - Page 2 News List

Watchdog finds fault with 'food' rules in cinemas

By Shelley Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Although moviegoers are now allowed to bring certain types of food into theaters, the Consumers' Foundation yesterday said viewers are often confused because there is no standard on what type of food they are allowed.

Several movie theaters used to forbid customers from bringing their own food into the theaters, forcing customers to buy food and beverages at concession stands. However, in February, the Government Information Office (GIO) said that movie theaters had no right to prohibit customers from bringing in their own snacks. The GIO added that movie theaters must not charge customers a “cleaning fee” if they choose to bring their own snacks.

Exceptions to this rule include food and drinks that could affect the viewing pleasure of other guests, such as foods that make loud noises or give off strong smells, including fried chicken and stinky tofu.

However, a recent survey of 15 movie theaters around the country conducted by the consumer rights watchdog showed that each one interprets the rule differently, confusing consumers.

Three movie theaters prohibit customers from bringing their own “hot food.”

It is unreasonable to prohibit all kinds of “hot food,” even if they do not give off a strong smell, foundation secretary-general Hwang Yu-sheng (黃鈺生) said.

“Movie theaters that prohibit customers from bringing hot food sell hot food themselves [at concession stands], such as hot dogs and french fries. This double standard is unfair to consumers,” he said.

Aside from double standards, several movie theaters have constructed elaborate lists of the type of food and beverages that are not allowed inside the theaters, from crepes to pot stickers, hamburgers, fried chicken, alcoholic beverages, soup, luwei (滷味, snacks slow-cooked with soy sauce and herbs), betel nut, rice, noodles and more.

“The exceptions to the rule should not cover such a wide range that consumers have no choice but to purchase food at concession stands,” Hwang said.

The foundation urged authorities to step up inspections and order movie theaters to make improvements if they impose unfair restrictions on customers.

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