Chinese city forms new rules to combat seafood price-gougers

Published on
January 13, 2017

A new rule being implemented this week in one of China’s major port cities on the east coast is intended to stop price-gouging by unscrupulous restaurateurs taking advantage of the growing demand and affordability of seafood.

With Chinese media and seafood industry spokespeople now regularly reporting how seafood has become a “food of the masses” due to rising incomes, the Municipal Price Bureau in Jinan has enacted a "Jinan Catering Price Code of Conduct.” The code commands catering operators, restaurateurs and vendors to clearly illustrate prices with “large fonts” and “color contrast” with the goal of making prices and species clearer on the city’s menus.

A slew of scandals in the past few years involving overcharging for seafood by seafood restaurants is the impetus behind the new law, according to a note issued by the bureau. National media recently reported on a series of customer complaints on the holiday island of Hainan, where diners were charged per prawn, having ordered on the assumption that prices referred to a dish of shrimp.

Similar scandals arose in the port city of Qingdao, while in northern China diners in one now-infamous incident faced a bill of almost USD 1,000 (EUR 942) for a sturgeon fish in the city of Harbin. Diners are frequently told that the species is rare and wild – both selling points in China where restaurants appear to have capitalized on an effort by punters to impress guests with rare, pricey dishes.

Jinan Municipal Price Bureau specifically stressed in its statement that restaurant staff must inform customers orally whether shrimp prices refer to a single or a plate of shrimp. The Jinan initiative also bans a practice of using the term “seasonal price” on menu items. Other cities are demanding that outlets list the product source and date of production, as well as a breakdown of price, in order to allow consumers to make judgements on the validity of menu pricing.

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