According to the 2018 statistics of the Department of Consumer Protection, Executive Yuan (hereinafter referred to as the DCP), the DCP received 58,962 consumer complaint cases in application for mediation from the municipality/county (city) governments, an increase of 4,707 cases from 2017. The top five categories are "online games", "clothing, leather goods and footwear", "telecom", "communications and peripheral products" and "electrical and peripheral goods". Among them, 4,239 cases were related to "online games", ranked first in the past two consecutive years. In addition, "clothing, leather goods and footwear", "telecom", and "communication and peripheral products" have been ranked among the top five for three consecutive years.
The DCP has posted the following complaint cases in the top five rankings in the past three consecutive years to remind consumers to watch for their own rights and interests:
Case 1: Online game companies launched a limited-time special offer of capsule toys but did not fully disclose information about the activities
The common consumer controversy of "online games" is that the account of a player is suspended or deleted for no reason or the network connection quality is not good. Filed in the past year was an appeal case of virtual capsule toys (lottery voucher) in which Mr. Wu complained that he spent a lot of money playing the game, but the connection to the gaming platform was of very poor quality, resulting in frequent abnormal disconnections. Nevertheless, the online game company has been delaying compensations for the disconnections and has not yet explained clearly the winning mechanism and the odds to win the lottery items.
To protect consumer rights, the DCP and the IDB (Industrial Development Bureau of the Ministry of Economic Affairs) have amended the mandatory or prohibitory provisions in the "Standardized Contract for Online Game Services", which has taken effect since January 8, 2019. For example, a regulation has been newly added to stipulate that the trader engaged in gaming events should fully disclose the event content, the chance of winning, the number of prizes and rare commodities. Moreover, the words of warning should be posted to inform the consumers that buying or participating in the event does not mean that they can obtain the specific products, so as to reduce the disputes on the purchase of similar commodities (like capsule toys, lucky bags, etc.).
Case 2: Be careful of unreal or fraudulent one-page advertisements
Most of the disputes on the online purchases of "apparel, leather goods and footwear" are concerned with the receipt of defective goods, faked goods and difficulty in refund. One-page online advertising fraud is especially rampant in recent years. For example, Mr. Wang repeatedly received promotional advertisements for branded bags, using such terms as “ultra-low price”, “cash on delivery” or “unconditional return and refund within 7 days of appreciation period”. Nevertheless, the goods he received were completely inconsistent with his expectations, and he found no way to return the goods for a refund.
The DCP has convened a meeting to urge the Directorate General of Highway of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications to supervise the home delivery operators to indicate the shipper's name, address and telephone number on the parcel in accordance with the Article 118 of the Regulations for Automobile Transportation Operators. Moreover, to protect consumer rights, the DCP urges each home delivery operator to follow the cash-on-delivery system and declare its refund policy or establish a buffer mechanism to temporarily retain the disputed funds.
Case 3: Poor mobile phone signal but high default penalty for contract termination
The main disputes in the "telecom" category are consumer complaints over the quality of communications and refund for contract termination. In particular, poor reception quality is a problem that the telecom operators should be responsible for, but consumers are charged a high amount of default penalty if they want to cancel the contract with the operator. For example, Mr. Chen obtained a cell phone number from the telecommunications company but found that its reception signal was extremely poor after returning home. He has contacted the operator to seek improvement for many times but nothing happened. He wished to cancel the contract but was asked to pay a high default penalty due to the expiration of 7-day probationary period for a new customer.
The DCP has held a meeting to urge telecom operators to fully disclose the information. When a customer applies for a phone number, the operator should inform him or her that the quality of Internet connection may be affected by factors such as the obscuration inside a building or the use of phones by many persons at the same time. If communication quality deteriorates due to such reasons as the base stations being demolished by the operator, the operator may be required to rectify the problem and provide a discount on monthly fees and/or a reduction or exemption on the default penalty for contract termination during the signal improvement period so as to reduce the consumer disputes.
Case 4: Unrepairable faulty mobile phone was bought but cannot be returned.
The largest number of controversies in the category of "communication and peripheral products" is related to the repair of mobile phone and the defects in peripheral products such as batteries and screen protectors. For example, Miss Lin had her mobile phone repaired without success during the warranty period, but the trader did not accept her request for return or refund. According to the Civil Code, the manufacturer or the trader should bear the guarantee responsibility for the products sold. If the same defects cannot be repaired again and again within the warranty period, the consumer is entitled to claim the replacement of a new mobile phone.
Finally, the DCP calls for consumers not to indulge themselves in the online games for a long time and should fully understand the mandatory or prohibitory provisions in the "Standardized Contract for Online Game Services". When applying for telecommunications services, a consumer should first review or understand the terms of the contract, especially the information related to the return and exchange and refund. When purchasing a mobile phone, a consumer should read the warranty booklet carefully to understand his or her own rights and interests. If he or she has a consumer dispute, he or she can call the consumer service hotline “1950” to consult the consumer service centers of local governments or go online to the website of Consumer Protection Committee (CPC), Executive Yuan (https://cpc.ey.gov.tw) to make an appeal to protect his or her consumer rights.