China's consumer association has warned people about being misled by vloggers on social media who review consumer products, saying that some of them offer misleading information or may have conflicts of interest or may be deliberately influencing buyers for their own commercial gain.
A recent survey conducted by the China Consumers' Association investigated 350 social media accounts that provide third-party evaluation for products and commodities, including electronics, makeup and skin care products, baby and maternal products, and food and beverages.
The accounts post evaluation videos on an array of popular video-sharing platforms in China, such as Douyin, Kuaishou and Bilibili, in which they often do comparisons between similar competing products.
According to the survey released on Tuesday, 93.1 percent of those third-party videos were suspected of having flawed or over-subjective standards for evaluation. Some 56 percent of them had problems in their fairness for allegedly having commercial interests with product sellers, with 36 percent suspected of disinformation.
The association outlined 10 typical cases in which the so-called third-party evaluations had problems.
In a post on video-sharing app Kuaishou last March, a vlogger claimed a facial cleanser "fitted all skin types" when assessing the product for viewers. However, the association said many consumers complained in comment areas that the facial cleanser wasn't suitable for sensitive or dry skin.
Another account released three videos last summer on Douyin, in which it apparently evaluated three products — a skin-care set, milk powder and a household water purifier. But the account's evaluation results were only based on its own subjective comments, instead of setting standards and making parallel comparisons, according to the association.
Furthermore, the account put related shopping links in the videos, by which netizens could directly transfer to the main pages of those products — a behavior the association suspected of being commercial advertisement.
The investigation also surveyed around 6,000 consumers nationwide to learn how third-party evaluation videos have affected their daily shopping.
The investigation suggested that plenty of consumers, especially those middle-aged and young, were aware of third-party evaluation videos, and almost 80 percent of surveyed consumers would watch such videos before making purchases, particularly when buying electronics or makeup.
Compared with video posts on online shopping sites, those published on platforms with a stronger social following had more problems in terms of evaluation, the association said in a news release.
"At present, there are many social accounts on third-party evaluation, which have various evaluation methods and standards, and uneven evaluation quality," it said, pointing to some video accounts suspected of being run by product sellers themselves.
"Some third-party evaluations are not only unable to help consumers make correct shopping judgments, but also affect the normal market order," the association said. "Unfair and biased evaluations have seriously disrupted production and consumption."
It advised the government to strengthen market supervision by specifically determining the qualification of accounts on third-party evaluation.