Chinese Lawmaker Urges Crackdown On Blind Boxes

Consumer Discretionary Author: EqualOcean News, Yijuan Li Editor: Tao Ni Mar 08, 2022 12:43 AM (GMT+8)

After a string of negative incidents within the blind box markets, the government considers rolling out tighter regulations

Blind box

China should ramp up efforts to tighten its supervision of the red-hot but problematic blind box market, a top Chinese lawmaker said on Sunday.

At the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress, the country’s top legislature, Yang Xuemei urged the authorities to set a clear definition of blind box, a new form of collectible toys that has gone immensely popular over recent years, and create a list for items allowed to be sold via blind boxes.

Yang, who is concurrently president of Huanghe S&T University in central China’s Henan Province, also called for efforts to introduce and improve third-party supervisory mechanisms to regulate the ratio of limited-edition blind boxes and build a credit-scoring system to govern their vendors.

The blind box frenzy started when consumers could buy unlabelled packages containing random items, leading to a thriving market. Pop Mart (09992:HK) (Chinese: 泡泡玛特) was the first blind box company to go public while other players, such as 52TOYS, MINISO, and Robotime, also moved into this lucrative sector. 

Blind box even went on to become a business model on the back of its element of surprise and novelty. Besides toys, industries from airlines to sports shoes distributors also imitated this marketing strategy.

Yang's proposal came also in response to a spate of unscrupulous practices by blind box sellers that have irked consumers and the public alike, such as the sale of living animals.

In May 2021, media reported that about 160 puppies and kittens had been cooped up in blind boxes meant to be sold in Chengdu, capital of southwestern China's Sichuan Province. Four were dead when the animals were rescued. This sparked an outcry for a clampdown on the blind box business.

In recent years, some blind box operators have also come under fire for encouraging a wasteful lifestyle. Earlier this year, fast food chain KFC in China launched a sales campaign in partnership with Pop Mart, saying diners who paid CNY 99 (USD 15.6) for a set meal could have the chance to get a limited edition of toys hidden in a blind box, despite the odds of one to 72.

This led many blind box enthusiasts to order several meals to increase their odds of hitting the jackpot. Media reported that someone even paid over CNY 10,000 for 106 meals just to get the coveted toy. KFC subsequently was named and shamed by China Consumers Association, a consumer rights watchdog.

Yang, the lawmaker, said special campaigns ought to be organized to crack down on this sort of shenanigan.

She also advised market watchdogs to strengthen quality controls over blind box operators in the market, by properly carrying out spot checks and comparative tests.