Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2013-08-26 05:36 PM
The Taipei Consumer Protection Office and officials of Top Pot Bakery reached an agreement Monday on the agency’s demand that the company make refunds to consumers over false claims about the ingredients used in its baked goods. Under the terms of the agreement, consumers with receipts from the bakery since 2010 can apply for a full refund plus 25% for a period of one month beginning August 27. The results of the application process and information on obtaining refunds will be announced October 1.
The Legal Affairs Bureau of the Taipei Municipal Government says, however, that it is not satisfied with the agreement reached between the CPO and Top Pot. The bureau notes that offering compensation is only a first step and the industry needs to do a complete rethink to develop a better approach to settling the issue with the bakery. A spokesperson adds that the bureau does not rule out joint litigation involving consumer protection groups and consumer organizations in the future in accordance with Article 51 of the Consumer Protection Law.
Tsai Li-wen, Director of Legal Affairs for the city, announced that beginning August 27 consumers can apply for reimbursement at any Top Pot store by showing invoices for a nearly three-year period the ended August 23. Compensation will include a full refund plus 25% of the price paid.
Hsu Hsun-ping, chairman of Top Pot’s holding company, appeared at the offices of the city government Monday to discuss the issue of compensation. Chen Hsin-cheng, Director of the city’s Consumer Protection Office, noted that Top Pot had protested that the refund scheme proposed by the city of three times the amount paid was too harsh. Company officials said it would face bankruptcy and 600 employees would be thrown out of work as the firm currently has NT$20 million in cash, enough to cover refunds for about one month of receipts.
The Consumer Protection Office disagreed with Top Pot’s claims and in the end the agreement called for refunds to consumers with receipts from the company’s opening day at the end of 2010 to August 23, 2013, plus a penalty of 25%.
In addition, to compensate those who have not retained receipts from the bakery, Top Pot agreed to offer a 25% discount on all baked goods for a period of one month after it re-opens.
Following the meeting with CPO officials Hsun Hsu-ping said he regretted the terms of the settlement but noted that the office’s initial demand of refunds of three times the amount paid would have driven the company out of business.
Top Pot also faces challenges in Hong Kong, where consumers and netizens have disputed the claims of the company that it uses all natural ingredients. One disgruntled consumer expressed suspicions that the baked goods are too fragrant and the flavor stays fresh too long, saying that Top Pot must be using artificial flavorings and other additives in its products
In addition, Wu Kuan-teh, President of the Taipei Bakery Association disputes Top Pot’s claim that 95% of bakeries in Taiwan use flavorings similar to those used by Top Pot. Wu counters that in Taiwan, “Very few people making bread add flavor extracts. About 90 percent don’t use them. Most flavorings consist of artificial ingredients and are not 100 percent natural, because natural flavors are very, very expensive.”
Wu adds that although it is not illegal to use flavor extracts, consuming too much of certain additives may create health risks such as allergic reactions, shortness of breath or even damage to kidney functions.