Food for thought: Disney sued over outside eatables ban
A student of East China University of Political Science and Law has taken Shanghai Disney Resort to court over the theme park's ban on visitors bringing their own food and some beverages.
According to the Pudong New Area People's Court, the case had its hearing but no verdict has been passed yet.
The student and her two team members have also filed a report with the public interest litigation department of the Songjiang District People's Procuratorate and their materials have been transferred to prosecutors in Pudong.
The college student, surnamed Wang, claimed that she carried some snacks to the resort in January this year. When she was entering the theme park, her bag was checked by gate staff, who then prevented her from getting in.
Resort rules state that visitors cannot bring food, alcoholic beverages and non-alcoholic drinks whose volume is above 600 milliliters.
Believing the "illegal" rules had infringed on her rights, Wang decide to sue the resort.
She earlier told media that on January 28, she booked a Disney ticket online for January 30 but there was not a single notification posted on it about the food and beverage ban.
She then bought some snacks, which cost her more than 40 yuan (US$5.6), and attempted to take them into the park. But she was stopped at the entrance. The staffer first told her to throw the snacks, when she refused, he told her to eat them or store them in a locker at the cost of 80 yuan a day.
The argument escalated, forcing Wang to call the police. She also made complaints with the Shanghai public service hotline 12345 and consumer complaint hotline 12315 but was told that the Disney rules are legal. So, Wang had to eat some of the food, give some to others and leave the rest behind before being allowed to enter the resort.
In the park, she bought candy floss for 30 yuan, a much higher price than that sold in the market. She also found a hot dog cost 35 yuan and a bottle of Coca-Cola 20 yuan, both higher than the market price.
After returning to school, Wang searched online and found that only the three Disney resorts in Asia, located on Chinese mainland, China's Hong Kong and Japan, ban outside food while their counterparts in the United States and France have no such ban.
Wang and her classmates also did a survey on people's views towards the ban. She said the results showed that the majority of the respondents thought the rules were put in place to boost the sales of food providers inside the resort and infringed consumer rights.
On March 5, Wang filed a suit at the Pudong New Area People's Court, demanding the resort cancel the food-ban rule and compensate her the cost of her food — 46.3 yuan. A trial was held on April 23.
Wang's lawyer Yuan Li said there were three points of dispute in the case.
According to Yuan, the resort insisted that it never forces visitors to have meals inside. They can always go outside the park for some food and then come back without being charged extra.
It also said that allowing outside food brings risks on aspects of food security and causes littering. Moreover, since Wang had visited the park, the service contract between them was sealed. It alleged that Wang's motivation on filing the lawsuit was to participate in a public interest litigation contest in Songjiang and win some reward.
Yuan refuted the claims and said based on consumer rights protection law, the business operator couldn't use rules, announcements or notifications to eliminate or limit consumers' rights. If consumers choose to eat outside the park, they have to go a long way out and then line up again to get in, which means they have less time for entertainment. And the resort can still profit from it because the nearby restaurants are still in the area of the resort.
She believed the resort shouldn't ban outside food just for some hidden risks while those having food inside can also cause litter. Li added that the contract had defects and the litigation contest had nothing to do with the case.
The resort has yet to comment on the case.
It is worth nothing that when Disney park released the rules two years ago in 2017, they had sparked an online debate.
Although some netizens thought the rules were unreasonable and complained about the high price of food in the park, there were others who supported the rules.
Fang Yumin, 28, who has been to Disney resorts in different countries and regions, told Shanghai Daily she pays to visit Disney mainly to enjoy the park's entertainment services. Since the food inside the park is special and each is made with a themed look, she felt it's right that the charges are high in lieu of the designs and labor.
"If people are allowed to bring food from outside, many will do it. This might not go down well with the inside restaurants, since they will find it hard to survive and bring new surprises for us."