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Fri, Sep 22, 2006 - Page 10 News List

Shanghai women demand refunds on SK-II products

AGENCIES , SHANGHAI AND SEOUL

Hundreds of angry Chinese women took to the streets of Shanghai yesterday demanding refunds for US-Japanese cosmetics after authorities detected banned chemicals in some of the products.

Security guards were called in to control a crowd of about 300 people, infuriated over being made to wait over promised refunds for the affected SK-II cosmetics owned by US consumer products giant, Procter and Gamble (P&G).

"We don't want to wait in line, we want our money now," yelled a group of mainly female consumers at a specially arranged refund window in downtown Shanghai.

P&G announced last week it would provide a refund after Hong Kong and Guangdong customs said they would launch an investigation into nine SK-II beauty products.

Chinese authorities had found chromium and neodymium ions in several SK-II products imported from Japan, including powder, foundation, lotion and cleansing oil.

Chromium can cause eczema, while neodymium irritates the skin and can damage the lungs and liver if inhaled.

Protests began on Wednesday at the Park Hotel, where P&G had arranged for refunds, but consumers became increasingly angry when they found out that they would be made to wait 21 days.

Meanwhile, South Korean department stores halted sales of SK-II products, while authorities checked for harmful chemicals.

The stores suspended sales of eight products -- including whitening agents, facial creams and sunblocks -- from the SK-II line, which are mostly made in Japan and distributed by P&G.

The Korea Food and Drug Administration has launched an investigation into the products.

Hyundai Department Store Co, South Korea's second-biggest department store operator, and third-ranked Shinsegae Co halted sales of eight SK-II products, officials said.

Lotte Shopping Co, the top department store chain, had yet to decide whether to follow suit.

In Taiwan, the Department of Health said it examined the SK-II products provided by P&G's local branch and found them to be safe to consumers. Consequently, the department said it had no plans to require P&G to recall SK-II products from department stores and other retail outlets.

However, Hong Kong-based Sa Sa International Holdings Ltd stopped selling SKII products last Friday in its Taiwan outlets, after the manufacturer and agent confirmed that the products sold in Hong Kong were the same as those sold in Guangdong.

additional reporting by Jackie Lin

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