China may be pushing its corporate sector to embrace the Internet and digital strategies, but it is worth bearing in mind that it is also the country where cyber-fraud cases are most rampant.
Last year we saw the massive collapse of some peer-to-peer lending platforms, which were basically criminal enterprises that were set up to cheat small investors.
Operators of those platforms bilked mainlanders out of hundreds of millions of yuan.
This year, CCTV has exposed shady operations in another industry: online food delivery.
Numerous restaurants on the fast growing food order platform of Ele.me (“Are you hungry (餓了麼)” in Chinese) were found to be operating in horribly unhygienic environment.
A black sheep typically shows itself on the internet as a decent, spacious eatery with a proper kitchen. But CCTV found that the reality couldn’t be more different and shocking.
The dubious food providers often operate in extremely small spaces, with the surroundings sometimes dark as well, with dirt all over the kitchen. Utensils are rusty and cooks simply don’t care.
Chances are that the firms don’t have proper operating permits, and their purported addresses could be fake as well.
Some workers were caught opening with their teeth plastic bags containing ingredients. Dipping a finger into the food for trial tasting is common.
In one case, a few men were operating five online restaurants on Ele.me, functioning out of a 10 square meter room.
With the wide adoption of smartphones, ordering food through apps has become hugely popular. The CCTV report will hopefully make mainland customers more selective in their online choices.
Alibaba last year reportedly agreed to invest US$1.25 billion in Ele.me to become its biggest shareholder.
But with Alibaba’s own Taobao e-shopping platform having many sham goods and counterfeit products, no one is betting that Ele.me will clean up its practices.
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