Photographer: Fred Dufour/AFP via Getty Images

China's Consumer Gala Trains Sights on Local Food-Delivery Site

Foreign companies got off lightly on China state TV’s annual expose of bad corporate behavior, after the closely watched program marking World Consumer Rights Day trained its spotlight on domestic food-delivery website Ele.me, which it said worked with unhygienic restaurants.

A Central China Television reporter posing as a delivery man for the website found some of the Beijing restaurants it listed were operating without licenses or proper kitchens, according to Tuesday night’s program. Ele.me said on its Weibo microblog after the show aired that it will remove all restaurants with violations from the online platform and review its network.

The “315 Gala” -- representing the date the show is aired -- also highlighted the practice of those who provide fake ratings for goods and services on Chinese e-commerce platforms such as Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s Taobao Marketplace, while noting the website has attempted to address this.

“As an e-commerce platform, Taobao has also announced rules on preventing and punishing the faking of reputation and sales volume,” according to a narrator on the CCTV program. Taobao “strongly urges” regulators to clamp down on such activities, it said in an e-mailed statement after the program.

Alibaba’s billionaire co-founder, Jack Ma, had reaffirmed his commitment to rooting out fake products, according to a blog post dated March 14. The Hangzhou-based e-commerce giant will become the largest shareholder in Ele.me after the planned closing of a $1.25 billion investment in the food-delivery platform, people with direct knowledge of the matter said in January.

This year’s installment of the “315 Gala” comes amid growing frustrations among foreign companies about China’s legal system, with U.S. food producer OSI Group LLC criticizing a Chinese court verdict last month. CCTV had earlier listed on its official website the three top areas where the program received consumer complaints: e-commerce websites, car sales and mobile phones.

— With assistance by Judy Chen

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