E-commerce giants remove healthcare firm Quanjian’s products following false marketing claims

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China’s biggest e-commerce platforms have removed healthcare product manufacturer Quanjian Group’s listings following false marketing claims that allegedly caused the death of a four-year-old girl in 2015, The Paper reports.

Quanjian’s products, ranging from herbal medicines and shoe insoles to anion sanitary napkins, have been removed from e-commerce marketplaces including Alibaba’s Taobao and Tmall, JD.com, Suning Yigou, and Pinduoduo.

The removals come after an article posted by healthcare website Dingxiang Yisheng linked Quanjian to the death of Zhou Yang, a four-year-old girl who used the company’s products. Believing the company’s marketing material, Zhou’s father stopped his daughter’s treatment at a Beijing hospital in 2013, instead opting for the company’s cancer-killing herbal medicine.

She died two years later in 2015.

Facing an outpouring online vitriol, Quanjian issued a statement on Tuesday, dismissing the article as inaccurate. The company asked Dingxiang Yisheng to withdraw the post and apologize.

“Quanjian reserves the right to protect our rights through legal measures,” the company said on Weibo.

Authorities in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin have set up an investigation team to look into the incident. The case is of “great importance” to both the city’s Communist Party committee and its municipal government, according to Tianjin government.

Founded in 2004, Quanjian has businesses across multiple industries, including healthcare, cosmetics, finance, sports, and real estate, with annual sales of around RMB 20 billion ($2.9 billion).

With increased income comes a rising awareness of the importance of personal health among China’s population. Health products, ranging from vitamins to dietary supplements, were the most popular imported product category during this year’s Double 11 shopping festival.

But the booming market has yet to be effectively regulated. A string of scandals has hit China’s healthcare and medicine industry over the past few years. In July, China’s drug regulator in the country’s northern province of Jilin found Changchun Changsheng Biotechnology had sold some 250,000 substandard diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus (DPT) vaccines. The company was fined RMB 3.5 million over the issue. The firm also recalled its rabies vaccines earlier this year.

The country’s internet regulator launched an investigation into search giant Baidu following the death of a 21-year-old college student, who died of cancer due to misleading treatment information he had found through ads he was served in the company’s search results. The event caused outrage online over poorly-vetted medical ads on the company’s platform.