Explainer: What is China's Consumer Rights Day?

It’s a day that big brands fear.

Starbucks, Apple, and Burger King have all been burnt by it.

The annual World Consumer Rights Day - on March 15 - has become a major TV and social media event in China,

during which domestic as well as foreign brands are singled out for high-profile and sometimes damaging criticism.

World Consumer Rights Day began in 1983 and China began observing it three years later.

Now, the highlight of the day is a two-hour prime-time show broadcast by state-run CCTV.

The "315 Show" names and shames brands for issues ranging from

- poor-quality products

- robocalls

- illegal collection of personal information

- and even aggressive sales of beauty salon memberships

This picture in 1996 shows consumers being taught how to distinguish fake brands of soy sauce.

This 2004 shot shows a convoy of trucks transporting more than $500,000 worth of counterfeit goods to be destroyed at a dump – also marking Consumer Rights Day.

Fearful big brands have been known to prepare responses ahead of time, just in case.

In 2020, U.S. fast food chain Burger King drew criticism.

In the past Starbucks came under fire for charging higher prices in China than they did in the U.S.,

while Apple was bashed for a then one-year service warranty in China, shorter than in other markets.

Volkswagen was scolded for engine defects on an SUV,

Nike - for misleading advertising,

and Japan's Muji - for selling food products allegedly sourced from part of Japan affected by radiation.

But most of the criticism has been of Chinese brands.

Food-delivery company Ele.me, which is now owned by Alibaba, was once singled-out for working with restaurants that operate without licenses or proper kitchens.

What’s the impact of being named?

Well – brand reputations and share prices can suffer.

Qutoutiao – a news aggregator app - was criticized in 2020 for its advertising practices.

New York-listed shares in the company plunged 23% in the trading session following the show.

Named companies typically issue prompt responses, expressing gratitude for the oversight and criticism, and willingness to correct their behavior.