City clamps down on 'blind box' craze, banning sales to young kids

Hu Min
Regulator outlaws gambling or lucky draw sales, bans tricking consumers by manipulating results, and mandates more rules transparency.
Hu Min

A guideline to regulate the "blind box" market was released by Shanghai market regulators on Friday, banning the sales of "blind box" products to children aged under 8 years.

Operators of "blind box" promotions should not conduct gambling or lucky draw sales of any kind, the guideline states.

They should make consumers aware of the types of "blind boxes" being offered, drawing rules, the amount of products inside and the probability of drawing "surprise items."

Operators are also banned from tricking consumers by manipulating results and setting "empty boxes."

Blind boxes have become a popular global trend and involve consumers paying a retailer for a box with a random assortment of novelty items inside. The buyer doesn't know what they're getting until they open the boxes.

The Shanghai guideline states the product value should be basically equal to sales prices and the price of each box should be generally no higher than 200 yuan (US$30).

"Blind boxes" should not contain animals, special food, drug and medical apparatus and instruments.

Operators are encouraged to set the maximum amount and purchase time of "blind box" sales to prevent speculation, according to the guideline.

Any financial activities linked with "blind box" and "hunger marketing" are banned.

The guideline is the first of its kind to be issued at municipal and provincial levels.

"'Blind boxes have gained popularity among consumers, particularly young people, while a vacuum of regulation in the area has led to some problems and disputes," said Shi Shulu, director of the market competition department of Shanghai Administration for Market Regulation.

"The guideline aims to safeguard consumer rights and promote the healthy development of the industry," he said.

KFC's "blind box meal" craze has become a trending topic recently on social media platforms, stirring heated debate over food waste and commercial promotion schemes.

The fast food giant teamed up with China's leading blind box brand Pop Mart to launch KFC x Dimoo dolls to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the opening of its first outlet on the Chinese mainland. Seven doll styles were offered.

Some people rushed to buy as many of the "blind box" meals as possible, though the set was meant to feed a family. Hence, in some outlets the toys were sold out in a flash as soon as they were put on shelves.

The promotion launch caused irrational, excessive purchases of food, the China Consumers Association said in criticism on Wednesday.

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