Marie France's abrupt closure probed
Customers left in the lurch by the sudden closure of Marie France Bodyline, a weight loss and skin care company, file complaints at the Fenglin Road police station Monday. (Kou Cong)
The Shanghai Commission of Commerce said Monday that it was investigating the sudden closure of Marie France Bodyline branches in Shanghai, which has led to calls to regulate the prepaid card market.
The commission said the company was not registered with them but they would investigate the abrupt closures.
All nine branches in the city have either shut down or stopped providing services, prompting customers to file complaints at police stations and seeking their intervention to get back refunds.
The Shanghai Consumer Rights Protection Commission said it had received 52 complaints from consumers who were left in the lurch by the skin care and weight loss company as of 4:15pm yesterday.
It called for a law to regulate the chaotic prepaid card market as soon as possible.
At the Fenglin Road police station in Xuhui District, more than 20 women, with one of them claiming to have paid up to 68,000 yuan (US$10,967) for a prepaid card, had filed complaints yesterday.
They first went to the Shanghai Industrial and Commercial Administrative Bureau but were told to go to the police station because the money involved was big.
"We have asked authorities to clarify the matter with the company and refund our money," a joint statement released by them said.
Wang Shaonan, an official with the Xuhui District industrial and commercial bureau where the company is registered, said it would cooperate in the investigation.
The total money paid for the prepaid cards by the 20-odd women was about 360,000 yuan.
Another person, surnamed He, said her daughter has yet to use up nearly 60,000 yuan left in her card.
"We are left in the lurch after the outlet inside Huarun Times Square stopped providing services all of a sudden," she said.
Another consumer, surnamed Zhang, said she even received a promotional short message from Marie France Bodyline last week. The message said she could enjoy new courses for free before December 31.
"I still have 8,000 yuan left in the card I paid at the Grand Gateway outlet. I have tried calling them, but no one answered the phone," Zhang said.
"Because Marie France Bodyline is a big brand, I paid for its weight loss service. Who would have ever thought such a thing could happen?" she said.
Another consumer, also surnamed He, said she had not even started using the card.
"I did not use it because I was pregnant. I paid 7,000 yuan and I did not even get a contract copy while signing it, just the prepaid card and invoice.
"Now I just want my money back," she said.
Among the few outlets that were still open yesterday, the Zhongshan Park store said it could shut down any time.
It said the supplier had stopped providing products to them, and they will shut once the products are all used up.
According to an employee at another outlet, senior managers, including the chief financial officer of the Shanghai headquarters on Zhaojiabang Road, did not show up for work last week. Some employees were still owed their salaries.
One employee said the boss had left and there was no one at the main office in Shanghai.
The company is owned by Hong Kong-based Global Beauty International Limited, which said on its website that it had sold its Chinese mainland business in the summer. It said the company will continue to run its business in Hong Kong, Macau and Southeast Asia, but did not mention anything about its mainland venture.
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