‘Fake’ Singles’ Day discounts alarm watchdog

About 17 per cent of discounts offered during China’s multi-billion-dollar Singles’ Day online sale event were not real, claims a state-backed consumer group.

It is calling on the government to intervene and punish platforms and merchants for promoting fake Single’s Day discounts.

Alibaba and Amazon are among companies the Chinese Consumers Association (CCA) alleges are guilty of hiking prices before the annual November 11 shopping festival in an effort to lure customers with sharp “discounts”.

“There is a large number of false discounts and other misleading behaviour about prices,” says the CCA, which has referred the cases to relevant government departments, recommending “severe punishment for price violations and price dishonesty”.

Ahead of the shopping event, China’s top business regulator last month warned firms including Alibaba, Amazon and JD.com against falsifying figures and selling counterfeit goods.

Alibaba recorded 120.7 billion yuan ($US17.4 billion) in Singles’ Day sales this year, and is being investigated by the US Securities and Exchange Commission over accounting practices related to its figures for the event last year. The US-listed firm has denied any wrongdoing.

“We have strict measures in place to crack down on false sales discounting,” says an Alibaba spokeswoman. She claims the company penalises merchants, depending on the severity of the falsified discount.

The CCA study recorded price changes on 12 platforms between October 20 and November 25. Of all the “discounted” products surveyed, 35 per cent of them on Amazon still cost more than regular retail prices, the highest of any platform. JD.com followed at 26.8 per cent, then Alibaba’s Tmall at nearly 19 per cent.

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