- Customers eat at a restaurant in Shanghai in January 2014.
Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
A new law that went into effect earlier this month has given frequenters of hot pot restaurants, karaoke joints and other entertainment venues something to cheer about.
Food and beverage establishments were banned earlier this month from charging customers corkage fees or requiring minimum levels of consumption as part of a broader Consumer Rights Law. The new measure also offers consumers the ability to more easily return online purchases and aims to better protect buyers’ personal information.
Not all businesses are yet complying, but meanwhile dissatisfied customers are already finding traction in the courts. Last week, a diner in Chengdu won a case against a hotpot restaurant for charging her a 30 yuan ($4.84) corkage fee for bringing her own drinks to accompany her meal. The restaurant also charged 50 yuan fee to use a private room. The court ordered the restaurant to refund both of the fees.
“Consumers need to enhance their awareness of their rights, they need to take them seriously and fight for their interests,” Cao Yi, the lawyer who defended the customer, said in an interview.
But some business owners say they’re being unfairly punished for others’ actions—after all, no one wants to use their resources to serve diners who perpetually BYOB and order little more than peanuts.
Chen Haoyang, owner of a café in the southern city of Shantou, says the new law was passed in order to crack down on “establishments that are deliberately cheating customers,” even though most restaurants, including his own, don’t behave in such a manner.
“Although consumers are now protected, now we law-abiding vendors have lost protection,” Mr. Chen said.
In a posting last week on the café’s Weibo account, Mr. Chen wrote, “Please don’t bring any outside food or beverage into our café. It’s not that we are stingy, but we have to respect each other.”
Still others are finding new ways to strike back. One restaurant in Chengdu evidently irked by BYOB customers posted a sign reading, “If you bring your own beverage, please bring your own cups.”
That sign, circulated hundreds of times on social media sites this week, prompted outraged reactions from diners.
But some took a more nonchalant attitude. “No problem,” wrote one user on Sina Weibo. “We drink straight from the bottles anyway.”
– Li Jie