Portable charger rental companies investigated for shady practices

Hu Min
Portable charger rental service providers were found to be excessively collecting personal information from users without consent and providing the information to third parties.
Hu Min

Portable charger rental service providers were found to be excessively collecting personal information from users without consent and providing the information to third parties, the Shanghai Consumer Council exposed on Monday.

The council investigated the apps of 10 portable charger rental service providers.

Among these, Soudian, a Shenzhen-based power bank rental firm, was found to be collecting users' personal information without user authorization, while Beidian, another power bank rental firm, was found to be collecting unnecessary user personal information multiple times without consent. The company also compiled new user data every five minutes, a frequency exceeding necessity, according to the council.

Jiedian was discovered to be providing users' personal information to third parties without consent, while Meituan did not specify the purpose, method and scope of personal information collection and usage in its privacy policy, the council said.

All of the 10 portable charger rental service providers were found to be collecting users' personal information via platforms such as WeChat or Alipay, and Xiudian, V Dian and Beidian were found collecting information such as the names or genders of users, which are irrelevant to rental services, the council reported.

Meanwhile, these 10 portable charger rental service providers were found to have potential risks for information leakage and malicious exploitation by third parties due to technical loopholes, according to the council.

The investigation also uncovered other problems, the council said.

Among complaints about portable charger rental services, 40 percent of consumers said that the charge for using the devices continued to accumulate even after they had returned the power banks.

System failure or error in returning the power banks led to the extra charge, the council said.

Misleading charging signs and unreasonable charges also drew the ire of consumers, the council said.

The council said it had asked the portable charger rental service providers in question to rectify the issue.

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