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Livestreaming fraud, forced app downloads, intrusive ads, and privacy violations were among the malicious online practices exposed during this year’s “3.15 Gala” national TV broadcast.
Unlike previous March 15 shows, yesterday’s Consumers Rights Day celebration didn’t single out Apple, Alibaba, Baidu, or any other high-profile companies or brands for reprimands. The offenders this year were little-known small fry.
This gala’s subdued tone reflects Beijing’s desire to stimulate consumer spending and economic growth, even as the country struggles with a rising wave of COVID-19 outbreaks and geopolitical pressures.
China’s 2021 GDP growth took a notable hit in the latter half of the year. Averaging out at 8.1%, growth tumbled from 18% in the first quarter to 4% in the fourth quarter. In between, regulators began a broad crackdown that eliminated or crippled internet industries, including crypto mining, private education, and online games.
Undercover in livestreaming e-commerce
In its 31st annual outing, the two-hour program spotlighted some obscure companies engaging in a dark side of e-commerce livestreaming, a sector that’s under intensified scrutiny by the state.
One segment showed how undercover CCTV reporters discovered a Guangdong livestreamer’s false claims of owning jade and emerald factories with the aim of grossly inflating prices and selling counterfeit jewelry and Buddha images. The Guangdong agency, Yongdexiang, was shown selling jade Buddha images for RMB 198 ($31) while telling customers the items had been purchased for double that amount. In fact, Yongdexiang had bought them for RMB 88 each. Livestreamers’ selling price could sometimes be as high as five to ten times their original purchase price.
A livestreaming agency in Yunnan province called Shilipai set up a dramatic price bargaining scene between livestreamers and fake jade ornament manufacturers. The purpose was to convince viewers they were being offered the best deal. Other scenes featured artificial backdrops in the livestream that resembled a Myanmar gemstone showroom….