McDonald's says group-buy offers fake

Updated: 2011-11-15 08:07

By Zhou Wenting (China Daily)

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BEIJING - McDonald's on Monday confirmed that it has not signed any deals with group-purchase companies, despite its discovery that discounts for its products were sold on one of China's most popular group-buying websites.

"We did not authorize any site to introduce offers for our products," said Weng Xiaomeng, a communications officer for McDonald's Beijing. "Our operating department will take any follow-up action to deal with this, including legal approaches."

Gaopeng, a joint venture between Groupon in the United States and Tencent in China, started offering a discount on a McDonald's set meal last week and instantly attracted 821 orders.

According to the item description, customers could save 21 yuan ($3) at any McDonald's restaurant by producing a 16-digit code sent to their cell phones by Gaopeng.

However, the fast food giant said the "special offer" is invalid, adding that it has seriously damaged customers' interests and the company's image.

"All the logos and pictures that appeared (with the website's promotion) were used without our permission," read a statement on the website of McDonald's China.

It also warned that the company will not cover any financial losses suffered by consumers who purchase set meals with the "discount".

The sale period for the item on Gaopeng had expired by Monday, but it had still not been removed from the website. Phone calls and e-mails to the company went unanswered.

Gaopeng previously told media the discount offer came about through cooperation with a third party company of McDonald's.

However, consumer rights experts said the website is still responsible for consumers.

"If this was started by a partner of McDonald's or its employees, who privately entered into an agreement with Gaopeng, the latter still shoulder the legal responsibility," said Qiu Baochang at the China Consumers' Association. "The group-buying website must sign a contract with the McDonald's company if it sells its products."

According to lawyers, customers who buy the code from Gaopeng but are then unable to use it at a McDonald's restaurant could even accuse the Internet company of fraud.

"Consumers can report the matter to police," said Yi Shenghua at Beijing's Ying Ke Law Firm.

Gaopeng is not the only group-buying website selling McDonald's food, either. Other sites, including D1tuangou and Saituan, have attracted thousands of people with their discount offers, while a set meal is also on sale at Teyouhuituan, a Beijing group-buying site.