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China’s ‘315 Show’ focuses on fraudulent practices in the country’s US$188 billion live-streaming sector

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China Consumer Rights Day took place on 15th March. First celebrated in 1986, two years after the establishment of the China Consumers Association, it has become a major television and social media event in China. The highlight is a two-hour prime-time show broadcast by state-run China Central Television (CCTV). Known as the ‘315 Show’, the programme is watched by up to a billion people  and is traditionally used to highlight consumer rights abuses in China.

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This year’s show put the spotlight on live-streaming market abuses as the US$188 billion industry continues to attract Beijing’s scrutiny. The industry gained added traction during the pandemic, as more people shopped at home during lockdowns and quarantine procedures. By December 2021, the number of livestreaming e-commerce enterprises in China reached 58,000, with a market size of 1.2 trillion yuan (US$188 billion) which is expected to reach 1.44 trillion yuan (US$226 billion) in 2022, according to iiMedia Research. China’s authorities have been ramping up regulation of the sector and fining some live-streaming hosts for tax evasion such as Viya, Xueli Cherie, Lin Shanshan and Ping Rong.

The show featured criticism of how some live-streaming e-commerce shows induced male followers to send gifts to attractive, female key opinion leaders (KOLs) who were later impersonated, in some instances, by male members of staff. 

The ‘315 show’ also highlighted the dangers of consumers being persuaded to make snap purchases during live-streaming e-commerce shows. According to the South China Morning Post the show highlighted Chengze, an online jewellery store, which invited jade suppliers to its live-streaming show who then promised buyers a discount. However, the TV show conducted a secret interview with a Chengze employee who alleged that the suppliers were actually actors.

The show also highlighted cases of violations of consumer rights in other sectors, including internet security, food safety, blind boxes and beauty clinic training among others. Most of the companies named in the two-hour show are not publicly traded.

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Global Times reported that the China Consumers Association accepted 1.04 million complaints from consumers in 2021, up 6.4 percent year-on-year. Among them, the number of Internet service complaints was as high as 102,674, ranking second in the service category.  A total of 836,000 complaints were solved, with a resolution rate of 80 percent with savings of 1.52 billion yuan (US$238.6 million) on economic losses for consumers.