On-the-Spot Report

More Supports Required for "Home Appliances for Rural Residents Program"

By staff reporter LIU YI

Making home appliances accessible to rural residents is a good program," Lan Nianying, deputy to the 11th NPC, head of Xinyue Village, Jiangxi Province, told China Today, "but the rural residents can not fully enjoy real benefits if proper support policies and supervision measures for the program do not keep up."

Kicked off in February 2009, the project was designed to bring modern home conveniences to the rural residents who might not otherwise be able to afford such luxuries. Farmers are eligible for government subsidies when purchasing certain designated brands or types of home appliances. Many of China's most well known electronics manufacturers producing items like televisions, refrigerators, mobile phones and computers, took part in the project. Against the backdrop of the global financial crisis, the scheme is regarded as an important domestic consumer stimulus measure. It was expected to absorb the excessive capacity of home appliance manufacturing companies and reduce the trade surplus.

Beneficiaries in the countryside initially hailed the project. Lan Nianying noticed that her neighbors tended to make multiple appliance purchases at once. TV sets, refrigerators, computers, and air conditioners have been among the most popular. The prices are kept low with additional subsidies available as high as 200 Yuan. But she and her fellow villagers began to encounter several problems, mainly in terms of product quality and after-sale service on the items.

Lan bought a water heater just prior to Spring Festival, when she set it up it did not work at all. She kept trying to reach the repair service listed but no one answered. Her experience was echoed among villagers. For many of the small appliances, there is no onsite repair service in place. Villagers are forced to haul the nonworking products to the city and fend for themselves if there are any problems. “The distance is dozens of miles between my village and the city, it takes a day of travel just to fix them,” said Lan, “the policy is great, but farmers should get real benefits.”

Around March 15, the International Day for Consumers’ Rights and Interests, a special hotline is opened in Beijing providing after-sales service and advice for the home appliances purchased in the countryside. Lan suggested that this approach should be popularized all across the country and become a long-term scheme, and improve the efficiency of the program in delivering service on the goods.

In addition, she believes a reason for the inadequate after-sales service might be a lack of service personnel. If more technicians could be trained in the countryside, farmers will not have to journey to the city just to take care of some minor problems. That would be a positive solution.


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