It’s not the amount of compensation being sought, but the reputation of the celebrity that is at stake here.
A Beijing resident has filed a suit against former NBA star Yao Ming for endorsing a health supplement that he says misleads consumers.
Feng Changshun also sued Baxun Pharmacy, a retail chain in the capital city from which he bought the fish oil capsules under question, China Daily reported Thursday.
Feng is seeking 500 yuan (US$80.10) in compensation from the supplier and 0.01 yuan from Yao Ming.
“[The lawsuit] is symbolic. I want [Yao] to admit to infringement of my rights,” the newspaper quoted the man as saying.
The case is one of the country’s first consumer rights cases involving a celebrity since a new consumer protection law was enacted in March, the report said. The law provides that those who endorse products or services that harm consumers should be held liable along with the producer or service provider.
Feng said he bought a bottle of fish oil capsules at a Baxsun store in February to help him with his occasional memory loss and poor eyesight.
According to a pamphlet handed him by a sales clerk at the store, the fish oil capsules, produced by Guangzhou-based By-Health Co. Ltd., would help remedy his ailments.
He said he bought the capsules because Yao was on the capsule package and promotional material endorsing the product.
“I adore Yao and I decided to buy the product to support him,” Feng said.
But the oil capsules failed to improve his condition, and Feng later discovered that fish oil is only a health supplement, not a medicine.
“I am angry because it has delayed my medical treatment,” the man was quoted as saying. “It feels like I have been used as a lab mouse.”
Since December 2010, Yao has appeared in a number of commercials for By-Health, a maker of health foods and dietary supplements.
Yao’s agent Lu Hao said the former NBA star has spoken to the company about the lawsuit and has been told that information about its products on the company’s websites and promotional pamphlets is not misleading at all.
By-Health said in a statement all of its promotional materials are in accordance with the law and its products meet safety standards.
Qiu Baochang, head of Huijia Law Firm in Beijing and a consumer rights lawyer, said the case should serve as a warning to celebrity product endorsers.
“They should choose their words carefully when they endorse products related to consumers’ health,” China Daily quoted Qiu as saying.
Beijing’s Xicheng district court, which is hearing the case, has yet to set a date for a hearing.
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