But before sending a representative to complete the payment, Tan Hiep Phat Co. Ltd. also reported to the police, who eventually arrested the customer for alleged “confiscation of property.”
The case has started a debate among local members of the public and lawyers as to whether Vo Van Minh, an eatery attendant in the southern province of Tien Giang, should receive a criminal charge for his act.
On January 3, Minh found a Number One bottle at his eatery that contained a fly and decided to call the company, headquartered in the southern province of Binh Duong, asking for VND1 billion (US$46,600) to not make the incident public.
The man threatened to report the case to the Binh Duong customer protection association and the media, and print 5,000 leaflets to scatter around the province to damage the company’s reputation, according to Tien Giang police.
Tan Hien Phat ended up agreeing to pay him VND500 million ($23,300) after three rounds of negotiations, and secretly reported the situation to the police.
Minh was arrested when he was about to receive the money at a café in Tien Giang on January 27 and has remained in police custody since.
Nguyen Tan Thi, a lawyer from the Ho Chi Minh City Bar Association, who was invited to defend Minh, said the man only wanted to receive compensation from Tan Hiep Phat for the bad product.
A customer has the right to do so and negotiate with the manufacturer, he said, citing the law on consumer protection.
Minh is allowed by law to ask for a certain sum of money, according to the lawyer, and by saying he will cause damage to the company, Minh only “wanted to win the negotiation rather than threaten it.”
“Tan Hiep Phat accepted the request for the company’s sake rather than being forced or threatened to do so,” Thi said.
“Minh’s request could be irrational but it is allowed by law and Tan Hiep Phat reserves the right to refuse it.”
Bui Quang Nghiem, deputy chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City Bar Association, also said Minh’s act does not violate the law, but “morally speaking, it is inappropriate as he asked for quite a huge sum of money.”
The lawyer also said Tan Hiep Phat had broken its promise by reporting the case to police while it had agreed to pay the money.
“Also in terms of morality, I think Tan Hiep Phat is no better than the customer,” he said.
Prosecutor Nguyen Van Chung, head of the People’s Procuracy of Ho Chi Minh City’s District 3, had a different view.
Chung said it is normal for a consumer and a manufacturer to negotiate for compensation, and the latter voluntarily agrees to pay money.
“But if the customer takes advantage of the incident to threaten the business, making the latter unwillingly pay the money, that act is a sign of confiscation of property,” he pressed.
Pham Le Tan Phong, director of public relations with Tan Hiep Phat, said the company always wishes to satisfy the needs of customers, except for “requests that are unnecessarily unreasonable.”