Editor’s note: A version of this originally appeared on RADII, a new media platform covering culture, innovation, and life in today’s China.
Chinese State broadcaster CCTV aired their “315” gala Friday night, in what has become an annual take down of dodgy business practices in China for Consumer Rights Day. Previous targets have included the likes of Volkswagen, Apple, Nike, and Muji, but 2019’s program turned its gaze solely on smaller domestic brands for the first time in years.
One of the most attention-grabbing stories to emerge from the hour-long special was that of medical waste reportedly being turned into household items such as single-use cups, carrier bags, and—most shockingly—children’s toys.
Other hidden camera and dramatic music-heavy segments alleged faults with “flash” payment cards (similar to contactless bank cards), looked at the dangers of e-cigarettes, and warned users of financial apps such as Rong 360 about sky-high interest rates and late fees on loans. The program also exposed health and safety issues at a manufacturer of a popular spicy snack and took aim at companies using automated dialing machines to cold call thousands of people a day.
The “gala” was largely devoid of big-name scalps this year. Perhaps the most high-profile company to fall under the spotlight was Shanghai-based fintech firm Samoyed. The credit transfer service, which filed for a $80 million IPO in the US late last year, was accused of collecting consumer data without the proper authorization.
All of which made for a relatively low-key program compared to some of the big exposés that have made the show a major event in recent years. Whether that’s proof that consumer rights and product quality in China are improving or just that big brands are being more careful around 315 is a matter of debate however.