Fri, Apr 13, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Legislators call for 24-hour hotline to protect tourists

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter

People stroll along Kenting Main Street in Kenting, Pingtung County, on April 4.

Photo: Tsai Tsung-hsien, Taipei Times

Lawmakers yesterday called on local tourism boards to launch 24-hour hotlines and more actively investigate disputes, after media reports last week that street vendors and shopkeepers across the nation were selling foreign travelers goods at inflated prices sparked heated debate.

Complaints about price gouging affecting foreigners and locals alike at night markets and in tourist areas have tarnished Taiwan’s “good image in the international community,” Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chen Man-li (陳曼麗) said.

“We are living in the Internet era, and news and information spread across the digital landscape very fast,” Chen told a news conference at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei. “So when tourists have a bad experience in Taiwan, they post messages that circulate all over social media, which could negatively influence the impressions of their friends and other netizens about Taiwan.”

Instead of sitting on the sideline doing nothing, the government must implement effective measures at all levels to combat incidents “in which vendors are making a killing off tourists,” Chen said.

Foreigners often rave about the hospitality and helpfulness of Taiwanese, but an unscrupulous and greedy minority are giving the nation’s tourism industry a bad name, DPP Legislator Chung Chia-pin (鍾佳濱) said.

“Foreigners are not familiar with local conditions, prices and how businesses operate,” Chung said.

“Therefore government authorities must exercise their authority to establish a transparent mechanism for consumers,” he said.

“That would allow tourists to make more informed purchasing decisions, protecting the free market mechanism and fair business,” he added.

The two lawmakers demanded the establishment of a 24-hour hotline and local taskforces to deal with consumer disputes, which would consult with vendors and shopkeepers at night markets and in business districts.

“Another goal is to push for transparency in pricing so that prices for fruits and other items are clearly marked at night markets,” Chung said, adding that customers should be able to verify prices before making purchases.

Local consumer protection officials are highly concerned about the reported incidents and would carry out more inspections, Consumer Protection Committee Senior Executive Officer Wang Shu-hui (王淑慧) said.

“We will also look at public safety and hygiene standards, and push for concrete action to deal with complaints at night markets,” Wang said.

“We will work with officials from other departments to make sure that vendors advertise honest prices,” Wang said.

A Taiwanese netizen last weekend wrote that a South Korean female student was charged NT$1,500 for seven small bags of cut fruit at Taipei’s Shilin Night Market, drawing widespread condemnation on the Internet.

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