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Press Release

Online Games Once Again Dominate Consumer Complaints Received by Local Authorities in 2022

Source:Department of Consumer Protection

Statistics from the Executive Yuan's Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) show that 4,215 consumer complaints related to online games were received by local authorities of special municipalities, counties, and cities (Consumer Services Centers) in 2022, emerging once again as the top consumer complaints. 3,323 cases were related to “Shipment and Logistics,” ranking second due to consumer backlash caused by unannounced platform fees surcharged by delivery platforms. The number of cases in this category has increased by 825 compared to the previous year. In descending order, the rest of the complaint categories are as follows: “Clothing, Leather Goods, and Shoes” (including online shopping) of 3,085 cases, “Food” of 2,534 cases, and “Gyms and Gym Memberships” of 2,460 cases.

Due to the impact of the pandemic, the aggregate number of consumer complaints and mediation applications received by local authorities of special municipalities, counties, and cities in Taiwan amounted to 70,626 cases. This is the third consecutive year for which the number of complaints went beyond 70,000 cases, but saw a decrease of 4,060 cases compared to 74,686 cases in the previous year (2021). Among which, the number of consumer complaints received by the Consumer Services Centers accounted for nearly 80% (79.72%) for the first time. The top five types of complaints were “Online Games,” “Shipping and Logistics,” “Clothing, Leather Goods, and Shoes,” “Food,” and “Gyms and Gym Memberships.”

The DCP has provided reminder regarding the top five types of disputes to consumers using the following examples:

Case 1

Doubt about the probability of winning in online games

Consumers often complain about online gaming companies for arbitrarily adjusting the probability of winning virtual treasures, and question the lack of transparency in the probability of winning rewards. Or, gaming companies often promote treasures with a limited offer, enticing consumers to spend a significant amount money to obtain them. However, the gaming companies would later make these items accessible and increase the probability of obtaining them. Relevant departments have taken the following measures:

I. The Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) amended and promulgated the “Mandatory and Prohibitory Provisions of Standard Contracts for Online Game Connection Service” on August 10, 2022, adding provisions related to disclosing the probabilities of winning in online games. These provisions have come into effect on January 1, 2023.

II. Since the purview of online gaming has been transferred to the Ministry of Digital Affairs (moda) on August 27, 2022, the DCP started to coordinate with moda on December 19 of the same year to supervise companies in addressing online gaming complaints. Moda was asked to regularly or periodically convene meetings with companies to discuss and implement measures to reduce consumer disputes and enhance the protection of gamers’ rights.

Case 2

Unannounced platform fees surcharged by delivery platforms

On June 6, 2022, Foodpanda Taiwan Co., Ltd. (Foodpanda) announced without prior notice that starting from the following day, it would surcharge a “platform service fee” in six regions, including Taipei City, New Taipei City, Keelung City, Taoyuan City, Hsinchu City, and Hsinchu County. This announcement sparked a backlash from consumers, and as of June 15, the number of complaints filed had exceeded 800 cases.

On June 10, 2022, the DCP convened a meeting with the relevant local authorities and Foodpanda to discuss the matter and requested them to handle these complaints promptly. In response to contracts without a reviewing period and unannounced platform fees surcharge, Foodpanda amended the relevant terms of their contract in October and November of the same year based on suggestions given by the Taipei City Government. If no promotional services are used within seven days from the following day after the first subscription date or the automatic renewal date, the member subscription fee can be refunded. If an order is subject to the platform fee surcharge, it will be displayed on the checkout page to inform consumers before finalizing the transaction.

Case 3

Online shopping operators require consumers to bear shipping costs for return goods

When online shoppers encounter issues regarding return or exchange of products, sellers often require consumers to bear the shipping costs for return goods. Additionally, some operators may claim that these are sales with reasonable matters, and refuse to accept return goods from consumers.

The DCP has asked the MOEA and e-commerce operators to prevent sellers from inappropriately expanding the scope of rescission right for distance sales with reasonable matters. They have also held several meetings to address the scope of application in doubtful cases. They have advised operators that when introducing free shipping measures, they should clearly indicate the circumstances in which consumers must bear the shipping fees when exercising the right to fully or partially rescind the contract. This is to prevent consumer disputes.

Case 4

Wedding banquet hosts forced to make last-minute arrangements with another restaurant due to the pandemic

Many wedding banquets have been forced to be postponed due to the pandemic. In addition, some restaurants have been affected by the pandemic as well, resulting in last-minute notifications stemming from not renewing lease contracts with the department stores or venue owners. They advise consumers to make alternative arrangements with other restaurants to hold their wedding banquets. In some cases, due to repeated postponements caused by the pandemic, restaurants eventually confiscated the deposit.

The DCP stated that pursuant to Article 11 of the “Mandatory and Prohibitory Provisions of Standard Contracts for Reservation and Catering (Taiwanese Banquet) Services,” if an operator breaches a contract, consumers may rescind the contract and request for default fees thereof.

Case 5

Issues related to contract termination and refunds due to the pandemic or resignation of fitness coaches

The willingness of consumers to visit fitness centers or other enclosed spaces has decreased due to the pandemic. Meanwhile, the initially-assigned fitness coaches, during which the courses were officially signed for, may have subsequently resigned and consumers are unwilling to switch coaches. As a result, they may request to rescind the contract and receive a refund for the remaining class.

The DCP stated that the amended “Mandatory and Prohibitory Provisions of Standard Contracts for Fitness Coaches,” promulgated by the Ministry of Education (MOE), have become effective since January 1, 2022. Key points of the provisions include requiring operators to clearly specify the service items (including fitness equipment and the number of fitness classes) and the designated coach’s name in the contract. Additionally, it shall add provisions that allow fitness consumers from affected areas of the pandemic to apply for membership suspension during which they are exempt from paying monthly fees, and strengthen various matters related to contract termination.

Finally, the following are the DCP’s suggestions to consumers:

I. Consumers are advised to not use any unauthorized third-party programs for online gaming. Be clearly aware of the details of the Mandatory and Prohibitory Provisions of Standard Contracts for Online Game Connection Service. Choose games launched by registered companies in Taiwan over those that are not.

II. When shopping online, consumers are advised to choose e-commerce websites that are well-established in Taiwan first, and use third-party payment services to complete their purchases.

III. If consumers encounter a one-page ad fraud, they can promptly utilize measures such as direct return and refund services provided by shipping providers and convenience store operators, or seek their assistance in tracking the products.