A movement led by the Consumers’ Foundation to file a class--action suit on behalf of consumers against companies responsible for the food scare in May will commence next week, the foundation said yesterday.
The food scare was sparked by the discovery of the illegal use of plasticizers in additives supplied to food and beverage manufacturers.
Consumers’ Foundation chairperson Joann Su (蘇錦霞) said the foundation, together with the Cabinet’s Consumer Protection Commission (CPC), has processed and settled about 2,000 complaints.
However, most dealers and consumers have yet to reach a consensus, and more than half of the cases, numbering in the thousands, remain unsettled, she said.
The foundation said it was preparing to gather volunteer lawyers to help consumers take the group complaint to court, adding that details on how to apply to join the group lawsuit would be announced next week.
The cost of the entire legal proceeding is estimated at about NT$6 million (US$201,000), and funding for the trial will come in part from fund-raising, Su said.
She added that the foundation would try to solicit support from the Cabinet’s secondary reserve funds.
Su also called on the government to amend third-party insurance regulations and approve the legislation for the Consumers’ Protection Foundation Fund as soon as possible to better protect consumers’ rights.
She said that under current regulations for third-party insurance, consumers can only collect payment if they have suffered actual losses or provide evidence of actual loss.
Neither do these regulations provide guarantees for returning or exchanging merchandise, she said.
As such, third-party insurance has not helped consumers affected by the plasticizer incident, Su said, urging the government to amend the law to safeguard consumers’ rights.
Following the plasticizer scare in May, the foundation began a two-month survey in July to gauge consumers’ views on the whole incident.
The survey, which collected 2,142 samples, showed that although consumers are now more aware of what to look out for during purchases, 55 percent of respondents have lost confidence in the nation’s food security, despite the government’s emergency measures to deal with the issue.
Only 5 percent of respondents expressed confidence in local food security measures, the survey showed.
More than half of respondents also said that consumers’ rights were not upheld and compensation was lacking during the incident, the poll showed.
As to the foodstuff dealers’ attitude, 66 percent of respondents said they could not accept the dealers’ comment that they were also victims in the case.
A total of 61 percent said they had lost faith in the dealers, with only 3 percent saying that the incident had not affected their confidence in dealers, the poll said.
Asked whether it would be reasonable for dealers to provide a considerable sum to establish a compensation fund for consumers, 69 percent of respondent agreed it was reasonable, the poll showed.
The survey also showed that 69 percent of respondents had become more suspicious about food safety after the incident; 65 percent said they thought the “brand name” and “type” of products being sold have a great impact on their choices of which to buy, the survey said.
Translated by Jake Chung, Staff writer