Several online property platforms in China have recently come under fire as the apartments they rent to customers have been found to have excessive levels of formaldehyde, a chemical used in making building materials and furniture.
Some platforms offer apartments whose amount of formaldehyde is three to eight times more than the acceptable standard.
The high levels of formaldehyde pose serious health hazards to tenants. What's more troubling is that it's difficult for them to safeguard their rights as the contract normally has no article of compensation for an excessive amount of the harmful gas. Moreover, it's hard for a tenant who gets sick after renting an apartment to prove his or her illness is directly related to the chemical.
The problem reflects loopholes in online property platforms' quality control and consumer rights protection systems.
Supervision of such platforms should be strengthened by requiring them to provide information regarding when an apartment is renovated and materials used during the process. In addition, it should be compulsory for newly renovated apartments to go through formaldehyde tests administered by third-party agencies before being advertised for leasing. The standards of compensation for tenants when disputes occur should also be made clear.
More importantly, Internet companies, including online property platforms, should improve internal management and shoulder their social responsibilities. Companies that pursue profits at the price of quality of services will eventually lose customers and the market.
(This is an edited excerpt of an article published in People's Daily on September 20)