Carrefour, Wal-Mart 'sorry' for China pricing

27th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

Retail giants Wal-Mart and Carrefour have apologised after Chinese authorities accused them of overcharging customers, state media said Friday.

Eleven Carrefour stores and three Wal-Mart branches were found to have charged more than the price they displayed on products ranging from cotton underwear and tea leaves to rubber gloves, reports said.

Carrefour "sincerely apologises" and has offered to refund customers five times the difference between the price charged and that on the label, the China Daily said Thursday, citing a statement from the company.

On Friday, the Xinhua news agency said Wal-Mart in China had "expressed 'sincere apology' to affected customers".

"Further, the company has been cooperating with authorities' investigation into the cheating. It has also launched self-examinations in stores nationwide," the report said, citing a "written interview" with the company.

"(Wal-Mart) will strengthen its price monitoring."

Local authorities were ordered to fine the Carrefour and Wal-Mart stores for deceptive pricing practices and confiscate their "illegal income", the National Development and Reform Commission said on its website Wednesday.

Fines will be five times the amount confiscated, or up to 500,000 yuan ($76,000) if the amount cannot be calculated, the statement said.

The commission, China's top economic planner, also urged authorities to step up price investigations ahead of the Lunar New Year, which falls on February 3, and punish serious offenders with fines and licence suspension.

Retail spending usually soars for the most important holiday of the year as people splash out on food and gifts for families and friends.

The crackdown comes as Beijing tries to curb inflation, which rose 4.6 percent on year in December, down from a two-year high of 5.1 percent in November.

But analysts expect consumer prices to increase at a faster pace this month due to cold weather and the holiday season.

© 2011 AFP

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