Recently, the issue of VIP membership services and advance screening, whereby video platforms provide a preview of drama episodes in advance for VIP members who have paid extra, has aroused heated discussion among Chinese netizens. Many consumers have expressed doubts and dissatisfaction with such moves by the country’s video platforms.
The China Consumers Association (CAC) published an article in response, saying that “VIP membership services on the video platforms should comply with laws and regulations, and the quality of services should be consistent with the price,” adding that consumers’ rights and interests should be fully protected.
According to the article, the main problems that consumers have complained about are as follows:
First, some consumers are under the impression that they have paid to become VIP members in order to enjoy the exclusive right to watch dramas in advance. They question the rationality of introducing advance screening services which charges consumers again.
Second, consumers say that the video platforms unilaterally modified the schedule of hit dramas during the country’s Spring Festival, from updating two episodes every Wednesday to Sunday to updating two episodes every Saturday to Sunday, and broadcasting four episodes less every week. At the same time, they have introduced pay-in-advance screenings, which infringes members’ rights and interests.
Third, the platforms claim that paid members will be free from advertizements. In fact, only the advertisements at the beginning of the videos are removed, and various advertizements are still inserted many times in the middle of the videos.
Fourth, consumers unknowingly have their memberships renewed by video platforms before their membership service has expired or without timely reminders.
In this regard, the CAC suggests:
First, the video platforms should clarify the rights and interests enjoyed by VIP members, should not deliberately slow down the pace of video updating or restrict consumers from unlocking advance screening videos. Platforms should not damage the rights of ordinary consumers and VIP members.
Second, platforms have to ensure the way they promote advertizements is in line with laws and regulations.
Third, platforms that provide services by means of automatic renewal should clearly remind consumers five days before the renewal date.
Fourth, the VIP membership service agreement of video platforms should not have general self-authorization provisions, and should not exclude or restrict consumers’ rights.
The CAC, established with the approval of the State Council in December 1984, is a national social organization that supervises goods and services and protects the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese consumers.