Disney responds to controversial security checks

2019-08-24 07:51:40 GMT2019-08-24 15:51:40(Beijing Time) Sina English

Shanghai Disney Resort issued a statement Friday responding to a recent local controversy about security checks and food policies triggered by an unresolved lawsuit about its food ban.

The theme park said they understood there had been heightened media and public interest to new rules, including security entry procedures. The statement said, "We are listening and we can always learn and improve. We share the same goal – your safety and great park experience."

A lawsuit was brought by a student surnamed Wang from East China University of Political Science and Law who became involved in a dispute with the park's security on not being allowed to bring in her own snacks worth 46.3 yuan ($6.60) when she made the trip to the park in late January.

In the suit, filed at Pudong New Area People's Court on March 5, she demanded the food ban should be overturned, and ordered the park to compensate her loss. A hearing was held on April 23, but the verdict is pending.

Disney policy is to ask all visitors to open their bags and have all items checked by staff before entry. Outside food, alcohol and nonalcoholic beverages over 600 milliliters, and other items such as glass bottles have been banned since November 2017.

"Security screenings aren't fun for our guests, or, quite frankly, for us. However, we are actually required by law to screen all guests and bags prior to entering Shanghai Disneyland. We work very closely with the local government to develop security entry procedures, and we regularly review and monitor them to ensure full compliance," the statement said.

This case was made public by a number of Chinese media outlets in early August, provoking heated discussion and disputes online. Quite a few internet users said the policies of food ban and bag checks were unfair, a violation of privacy. They wondered if the world's second largest Disneyland had a commercial motivation and interests behind the entry policies, especially as the food and beverages supplied within the park are overpriced.

However, Disney supporters argued the strict security checks helped improve safety for the theme park full of little children, prevented uncivilized behavior by certain visitors who littered the facility with food garbage; meanwhile, food prices in the Shanghai Disneyland were relatively acceptable compared with other Disney parks around the world.

The Disney statement said it was necessary to keep out some items that could negatively impact guest safety and the park environment to make the park "the happiest place on Earth," while asking all visitors to comply with the "Shanghai Disneyland Rules and Regulations," including security screening "to protect our guests and cast safety and security, as well as the guest experience."

The China Consumers Association publicly backed the student on Aug. 14, saying it thought the resort was taking advantage of its role as the only Disney park on the Chinese mainland to impose restrictions on visitors. A mediator with the Pudong district local consumers' association said it also thought the resort was unreasonable as it had "refused" to accept its mediation or to change the food ban and security rules.

This was denied by Disney. "While we do not wish to respond publicly on this pending litigation, Shanghai Disney Resort fully respects the legal process, which includes the opportunity for mediation. The idea that the 'Shanghai Disney Resort does not accept mediation' is not correct."

This is not the first time it has been sued over the policies. In June 2018, a lawyer from Suzhou, Jiangsu province, tried to take the theme park to court by accusing it of violating consumer rights.

However, the court rejected his lawsuit, saying the Disney's operational approaches were already a formed business model and routine recognized by both the international community and Chinese authorities. In addition, the lawyer had misunderstood the Civil Procedure Law regarding his particular dispute with the theme park. An appeal court also turned down the lawyer's appeal against the verdict.

Actually, the university student didn't get rejected by court this year because she sued Disney by defining her action as a "service contract dispute," calling the ban an unfair term in standard-form consumer contracts. She also cited a statement by the Supreme Court, which had ruled an outside food and beverages ban in the catering industry was "bullying."

Wang Lin, a legal scholar, told The Beijing News on Aug. 15: "What we really need to confirm is that Disney must comply with Chinese laws when conducting its business activities. It is indeed necessary to conduct a legality review of Shanghai Disneyland's food ban."

Turning to the debate on jurisprudence, he argued that, “For a market that is fully competitive, we should say judicial non-intervention or negative intervention is better than positive intervention. The maintenance of market order should reject the coercive selling by the business, and should also reject the coercive buying of consumers. Favoring either side can lead to market disasters."

Shanghai Disney Resort expressed its appreciation on Friday for all the feedback and suggestions from the public, pledging, "We will continue to listen to all voices, and to optimize our operations in order to create happiness and magical moments that last a lifetime for our guests with their families and friends."

At the same time, it added, "We try our best to minimize the impact of these procedures on the millions of guests who visit each year and we apologize for any unintentional inconvenience they may cause. Our cast will work hard to minimize the impact of our security screening, and continue to look for ways to further enhance our procedures and service standards."

By Zhang Rui


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