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Chinese Watchdog May Urge Mattel Lawsuits

Guangdong's fair trade bureau looking into helping affected manufacturers sue the U.S. toy giant for compensation after toy recalls damaged reputations.

HONG KONG (Kyodo) â€” U.S. toy giant Mattel Inc. has damaged the reputation of ''Made in China'' products and Guangdong's fair trade bureau is looking into the possibility of helping affected manufacturers sue Mattel for compensation, bureau chief Chen Lipeng said Monday.
 
Chen, director of the Fair Trade for Import and Export Bureau in southern China's Guangdong Province, told Kyodo News the final decision on whether to take legal action rests with individual manufacturers who have business relations with Mattel.
 
''The bureau as a government unit will not take on the task of filing lawsuit against Mattel,'' Chen said by telephone. ''We are currently studying the possibility of that, but we have not contacted any manufacturers yet.''
 
Guangdong is the manufacturing hub of China, especially for light goods ranging from toys to furniture, and to heavier goods such as vehicles.
 
A series of toy recalls has dogged the reputation of China-made products since August.
 
Mattel launched worldwide recalls of more than 21 million toys made in China, blaming excessive lead content in paint applied to the toys but minimizing design faults that triggered 85 percent of the recalls.
 
''Mattel has made mistakes and its apologies came a little too late,'' Chen said.
 
Thomas Debrowski, Mattel's executive vice president for worldwide operations, apologized in person to Li Changjiang, head of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, in Beijing in September.
 
Cheung Shue-hung, the owner of Lee Der Industrial that was named by Mattel for using lead paint, committed suicide over the accusations in August.
 
Even if the manufacturers decided to sue, Chen said, the bureau would merely be offering legal advice, not filing collective lawsuits.
 
Chen was attending an economic law society conference and other than commenting on product reputations, he said the conference also focused on allegations against China on anti-dumping.
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