Online home leasing platform Ziroom in court for ‘formaldehyde’ apartments

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Chinese online home leasing platform Ziroom is once again in the spotlight with a series of long-awaited court cases being brought against the company for alleged elevated levels of formaldehyde in its apartments.

The class-action lawsuit involving 26 tenants was heard at the Dongcheng District People’s Court in Beijing yesterday (Dec. 6). Cases were split and processed individually, with plaintiffs being represented by more than 20 lawyers, China Radio International (CRI) reports.

Ziroom was not immediately available for comment about the case.

Zhou Yun, one of the Beijing-area tenants told CRI that it doesn’t matter how much the company loses in the lawsuit, as long as it is punished for fraud or for infringing on consumers’ rights.

In March, Zhou moved to a Ziroom apartment in Beijing, later experiencing a sustained low fever. She was also diagnosed with conjunctivitis in May. After Ziroom rejected her request to have the air quality in her room reassessed, she turned to a third-party agency, which said reported high levels of formaldehyde on the property.

In 2012, Ziroom CEO Xiong Lin promised on Weibo to make sure that all newly decorated apartments are tested for air quality issues, with a report being issued before tenants were allowed to move in. The plaintiffs claim the company didn’t fulfill these commitments.

This year, Tencent-backed Ziroom has been called out for questionable business practices on numerous occasions. In September, a Beijing widow of an Alibaba employee who died of leukemia filed a lawsuit against the company. Her late husband signed a lease with Ziroom in Hangzhou. The hearing was later postponed.

In October, a Beijing couple discovered a hidden camera in a Ziroom apartment after living there for nearly six months. At the time, the company said it had taken steps to cooperate with police on the matter.