Chinese toy industry has been caught in a controversy for selling dangerous products to children through mystery boxes. Following the criticism from a cross sections of the society, Chinese regulator recently imposed a ban specifically on the sale of mystery boxes to children below eight and made mandatory to get parents’ consent for older children. Several questions have been raised over the sale of mystery boxes by animal rights activists Animal rights activists, several toy makers compromise baby animal rights. Mystery boxes, a toy box that contained one figure from a large selection that is not visible until it is open, gained popularity overseas as well as in the Chinese domestic market in 2020. The online exports surged more than 400 percent in 2020 compared to 2019.
Among them Pop Mart had seen the sharpest growth in 2020.. According to Tmall Global, the company alone accounted for more than 35 percent of overseas sales of mystery boxes, and in 2020 its total sales volume had increased more than tenfold. Its most popular item was the Molly doll, a little girl figurine created by a Hong Kong artist, and a toy box was usually priced at 9.1 US dollars, according to global times.
The mystery boxes became successful due to its commercialization of intellectual properties (IPs), which enabled the consumer to buy IP products at a much lower price than traditional designer toys. As always, China’s mystery boxes was caught in a controversy. Shopping sites in China have been accused of animal cruelty for allegedly shipping “mystery boxes” to customers containing live puppies and kittens. Local reports indicated that many animals suffered significant harm in transit. CNN revealed a horrific practice of animal cruelty in China in which it was found that animals became victims of a shopping craze “mystery boxes”.
The CNN report revealed the dark side of mystery boxes as live animals were found in these harmless looking boxes. The news report revealed that these boxes were sold in person or on online platforms and then shipped by couriers with a hope to lure customers with the promise of a live animal or even a pedigree cat or dog. Chengdu Love Home Animal Rescue Center shared on Weibo in May 2021 claiming that it had found 160 crates containing cats and dogs in the back of a delivery truck in Chengdu. A video from the incident showed distressed animals tightly packed together in small crates, apparently lacking any food or water.
The rescue centre said that it had rescued “hundreds” of very frightened young puppies and kittens, many of which appeared to be struggling to breathe. They said that they disinfected, cleaned and fed them, before sending many to animal hospitals for treatment. According to CBS news, volunteers said that the crates were disguised as regular deliveries, due to be shipped to cities across the country. Shipping live animals in this way is illegal in China. According to the rescue organization, many of these animals end up abandoned if customers are unhappy with their boxes. Many Weibo users had condemned not only the retail sites, but also logistics companies and law enforcement for allowing the issue to continue without consequences. Users said the boxes are both animal cruelty and a public health threat. Many called on the government to introduce stronger legislation to protect animals.
Embarrassed by the criticism on social media platforms which can be accessed from any part of the world, China’s market regulator recently issued guidelines on regulating business practices for mystery boxes, strengthening compliance management of the fast-growing yet thinly regulated market. According to these guidelines, mystery box vendors are banned from selling items to minors under the age of eight without the consent of guardians.
China’s Mystery boxed industry
The mystery boxes toy industry in China is worth an estimated 10 billion US dollars. The industry is growing rapidly, and it is expected to continue to grow in the coming years. Experts said that China faced criticism following the ban because the country has a large population of young children. The ban is an attempt to protect children from the potential dangers of mystery boxes, such as the risk of receiving counterfeit or dangerous products.
Mystery box industry in China
China was selling mystery boxes in other countries, but the ban on the sale of mystery boxes to children under the age of 8 only applies to China. However, the ban is likely to have a ripple effect on the global mystery boxes market. The Chinese market is a major driver of the global mystery boxes market. The ban is likely to lead to a decrease in the demand for mystery boxes from China, which could have a knock-on effect on the demand for mystery boxes in other countries.
Here are some of the dangers of mystery boxes
Counterfeit products: Mystery boxes often contain counterfeit products, which can be dangerous or harmful.
Dangerous products: Mystery boxes can also contain dangerous products, such as sharp objects or small parts that could be a choking hazard.
Unrealistic expectations: Mystery boxes can create unrealistic expectations in children, who may believe that they will always receive valuable or rare items.
Financial risks: Mystery boxes can be expensive, and children may spend more money than they can afford on them.