Apple pies and iPads sweeten China's dreaded TV expose

Fri Mar 13, 2015 10:23am EDT
 
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By Adam Jourdan

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - From cut-price apple pies to free iPads, companies in China are transforming Sunday's dreaded consumer rights day into a shopping frenzy, to blunt the impact of being named and shamed in state broadcaster CCTV's annual expose.

McDonald's Corp is discounting pies three years after food safety lapses made it a one-time target of the broadcaster's "3.15" show, while e-commerce giant JD.com Inc is giving away tablet computers over four days of "crazy sales" ending Sunday.

"Companies are being preemptive, making consumer day a positive story," said James Feldkamp, chief executive officer of consumer watchdog MingJian. "If you're going to be a target, at least you're already doing something to balance it out."

The investigative news show, broadcast every World Consumer Rights Day, is in tune with a government drive to boost consumer protection laws and toughen punishments for misleading shoppers. Violations of consumer trust can go viral online in China, especially in sensitive sectors such as food, cars and make-up.

The 3.15 show drew a rare apology from Apple Inc in 2013 after criticizing the iPad maker's customer service, and leveled a similar charge at camera manufacturer Nikon Corp last year. Similar broadcasts have dragged down China sales at McDonald's and KFC parent Yum Brands Inc.

Such is the show's impact that in recent years firms have increasingly prepared for shocks by buttering up consumers.

APPLE "PI" DAY   Continued...

 
Customers stand outside of a McDonald's store in downtown Shanghai July 31, 2014. REUTERS/Carlos Barria