Offering unauthorized McDonald's coupons is the latest controversy for Gaopeng, after it was found selling fake Tissot watches in October. (File Photo/CFP)
Fast-food giant McDonald's announced on Nov. 14 that it has no agreement with the Chinese group-buying website Gaopeng, after the site was accused of offering invalid coupons for the restaurant. Gaopeng stated that it has teamed up with Guochang Hongpeng Technology in issuing preferential vouchers which can be used at McDonald's restaurants.
Gaopeng is a 50:50 joint venture between Chinese internet giant Tencent and Groupon, the largest group shopping website in the US, with each side contributing US$50 million in capital.
Last Friday, Gaopeng offered a group-buying deal for Beijing residents allowing them to purchase a 46-yuan (US$7.20) two-person meal at McDonald's for just 25 yuan (US$3.90). Gaopeng said customers would receive a 16-bit QR code, which could be used as a coupon, within two to three days. One day after the promotion was launched, 700 users had purchased the coupons.
McDonald's immediately denied the credibility of the offer on its official website, while Gaopeng said the discount was authentic before closing it down on Monday.
The accusation of offering false coupons is the latest in a series of controversies involving Gaopeng, following the October sales of fake Tissot watches on its website. One model of Tissot watch was sold for just 690 yuan (US$108), a quarter of its original price, on Gaopeng.
On Nov. 4, Tissot confirmed that the watches bought on Gaopeng and sent to the company for inspection were counterfeits. Three days later, Gaopeng admitted that a watch supplier had fraudulently claimed to be a Tissot agent and that its quality inspectors had failed to fulfill their duty. Gaopeng stated that it would fully refund the cost of the watches to buyers and provide them with cash compensation.
As of Sept. 30 this year, Gaopeng had incurred net losses of US$46.5 million and brought in revenue of only US$2.14 million. The company is a typical case of a struggling group-buying website in China — in order to solicit suppliers, group-buying operators have depressed their gross margins to as low as 10%. As of the third quarter of 2011, 754 operators in China had closed down or transformed their operations.