Shanghai moves to regulate community group buying as prices jacked up
People move supplies in Shanghai. /CFP

People move supplies in Shanghai. /CFP

Shanghai's market regulator said on Wednesday it had taken actions to regulate community group-buying services, on which the bulk of quarantined residents rely in the virus-stricken city, and punished businesses for jacking up prices when people are in dire need of basic supplies.

Since an aggressive return of COVID-19 that has forced the city to impose lockdowns, weeks of quarantine have left people with insufficient necessities to support themselves, and with restaurants and supermarkets being suspended, many are faced with much fewer options to secure supplies. 

Community group-buying is one of these options, but problems such as unreasonably high prices, short measures and poor food quality have emerged, roiling a market that is now essential to Shanghai residents.

The Shanghai Municipal Administration for Market Regulation has issued a notice urging organizers and operators of the service to offer reasonable prices and properly place price tags so that all information is clear to customers. 

Peng Wenhao, the deputy director, said the agency had stepped up supervision and fast-tracked a slew of price-related violation cases. Up until Monday, an accumulative total of 30,419 people had been dispatched to execute price-related laws, and over 38,000 warning letters had been sent to businesses, according to Peng.

She said 192 cases had been found to have violated the law, with 14 for hauling up prices, seven for price fraud, nine for overcharging extra fees and 162 for not marking the price clearly.

Peng said two stores of a major supermarket chain and a restaurant chain which were found to have jacked up the price for delivery were fined the heaviest.

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