The Change of Consumer Problems Occurrences in China

Changing of Consumer Problems in China


Li, Yamaguchi University, Japan


1. Introduction

The consumers in China have
come to enjoy greater material richness with the development of the market
economy. On the other hand, they suffer many injuries caused by defective or
counterfeit goods and the profit seeking actions of marketing and advertising
companies. Certainly consumer problems in China will intensify in the process
of becoming “superpower consuming country”.

In this study, the
changes of consumer complaints accompanying the development of the market
economy in China
are discussed using some statistical data (China Consumer Association,


2. The Change of Consumer Problems

1) Changes
of Consumer Complaints About Quality of Goods

consumer complaints caused by quality of goods were 70.5% of all complaints in
the years 1986 to 1996. They decreased to 66.0% (477,981) in 1999. For example,
the complaints about refrigerator quality decreased from 29,130 in 1997 to
27,644 in 1999.

Increases of Consumer Complaints Caused by Counterfeit Goods

consumer complaints about counterfeit goods that injured consumers’ health
directly such as drinks, liquor, medicines, agricultural chemicals, seeds, and
fertilizer was 1.9% of all complaints in 1996, and increased to 6.8% in 1997.
However it decreased a little in the years 1998 to 2000.

statistical data of China Consumer Association in 1999 indicated that the
number of the victims of poisoning by counterfeit foods and drinks were 51,122,
and by counterfeit medicines were 9,231. The increase of consumer injuries by
medicine or medical service led to the discussion of new issues, namely whether
a patient is a consumer or not. There were 17,246 complaints about medicine and
medical service in 1999. Although the purpose of medical service is originally “to
help people’s life”, too much commercialism of medical service caused
health injuries and risks by counterfeit medicines.

3) Changes
of Consumer Complaints Contents

consumer complaints about air-conditioners increased in 1996 while complaints
about electric fan decreased. The number of complaints about motorcycles was
greater than the complaints about bicycles. This is because consumers changed
their purchasing behaviors, as they began to enjoy more material prosperity.

consumer complaints about cosmetics increased to 7,201 in 1999 compared to
4,966 in 1998, and the variety of consumer complaints became much wider.

number of consumer service complaints was 90,096 in 1999, that was 600 times of
complaints in 1986. These phenomena showed that consumer began to pay attention
to better quality of service with the diversification of consumers’ life.

consumer complaints about service issues, the most common complaints were
caused by mail service. They increased from 20,023 complaints in 1998 to 25,456
in 1999.

incredible point was the rapid increase of complaints about house issues, such
as house building, interior furnishing, home repairing, and home furniture.
Under Chinese socialism since 1949, the national government or local
governments had built every house. All citizens were given a house, therefore,
the consumer complaint about their house and house services were few. In the
1990’s, the housing system was changed and houses started being sold as
consumer goods, these housing issues became new consumer issues.


3. Increase of Advertising and Consumer Problems

Advertising affects consumer problems greatly
and changes purchasing patterns. The outlay of advertising was 1.1 billion yen
(about 8 million US dollars) in 1987, that is the 33rd place in Asian
countries. However, in only 10 years, it surpassed all but Japan in 1999.

By Galbraith’s “Dependence Effect”
(Galbraith, 1958 & 1976), consumer wants are formed by the mass
communication system and advertising. As China is growing to be production, logistic,
and consuming superpower, competition and advertising will become more intense
in the future. How to guarantee consumer rights in China’s socialist market economy,
and how to promote consumer education will be key issues. Consumers in a
socialist market economy system should be given richness not only in
“quantity” but also in “quality”.



Consumer Association “Chinese Consumer Newspaper”, 2000, March 15 & 2001,
April 27.

Galbraith, John
Kenneth “The Affluent Society”, 1958, 3. rev. ed.1976.