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Costco to honor refund policy amid controversial Ting Hsin boycott

Costco to honor refund policy amid controversial Ting Hsin boycott

Hypermarket chain Costco said Friday it will not change its refund policy despite it being abused in a controversial campaign to boycott products from subsidiaries of the scandal-ridden Ting Hsin International Group.

Costco said six of its 11 outlets in Taiwan have reported shoppers buying Lin Feng Ying-brand milk made by Ting Hsin subsidiary Wei Chuan Corp., then immediately opening the containers and asking for a refund.

The hypermarket chain allows consumers to return goods unconditionally if they do not like what they buy or no longer want the products, and it said it would not change the policy despite the actions of the anti-Ting Hsin consumers.

Those buying and returning the milk ran into some resistance from staff and other consumers at one Costco outlet on Thursday.

But online posts argued that it was an effective way to boycott Ting Hsin, which returned to the spotlight after executives with its oil and fat unit were found not guilty of violating food safety laws in late November. Ting Hsin was found in September 2014 to have imported feed-grade fat and oils and then refined and added them to their cooking oils for human consumption. That came after it was involved in another scandal in which a supplier labeled adulterated products as pure.

The group's reputation was badly damaged, and some local governments and schools introduced a boycott of its products.

After the recent not-guilty verdict, National Taiwan University announced an indefinite boycott of Ting Hsin products on Dec. 1. The university had banned Ting Hsin products in shops it runs since October 2014, but not in shops operated by contractors.

On Thursday, prosecutors filed an appeal against the not-guilty verdict. During a press conference on food safety Friday, Cabinet spokesman Sun Lih-chyun said consumers have the freedom to choose, and Costco's refund policy is a company business practice.

The government also respects people's decision to boycott Ting Hsin but does not approve of such actions, Sun added.

The actions taken by the activists at Costco led to an open letter issued Thursday by Wei Chuan CEO Michael Su, who urged the public to think about the company's 3,000 employees and suppliers who have borne the brunt of attacks targeting Ting Hsin.

Though Ting Hsin owns a 40 percent stake in Wei Chuan, the company is publicly listed and is run by management, Su stressed.

Consumers' Foundation Vice Chairman Yu Kai-hsiung said meanwhile that Ting Hsin should not hide behind its employees and should know what to do with its stake in Wei Chuan.

Yu said a day earlier that the foundation did not approve of returning purchased Wei Chuan milk at Costco because it was a negative campaign that wasted food and gave more work to the chain's staff. (By Chen Cheng-wei, Tang Pei-chun, Tien Yu-pin, Yang Shu-min and Kay Liu)


Updated : 2021-09-26 23:17 GMT+08:00