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Theme park group sued for giving discount based on height

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As Chinese teenagers grow taller, the debate over whether discounted tickets for underage visitors should be decided by age or height is back on table.

The latest case is a lawsuit filed by Guangdong Consumer Council on Feb 18, which brought conglomerate Chimelong Group to court for using underage visitors’ heights as discounted ticketing standards.

The Intermediate People’s Court of Guangzhou, capital city of the province, has accepted the case. A public hearing is to be expected, while the date is yet to be announced.

According to a statement by the council, it is filing the lawsuit on behalf of a large number of parents, who over the past several years complained that their children were excluded from enjoying discounted admission charge as they were deemed to be tall.

The council said the behavior of the group has violated the legal rights of underage consumers.

Five of the group’s recreational business units have been named in the filing, ranging from zoo, water park to circus world. It is required that children over the height of 1.5 meters pay full price to enter the parks.

The group’s requirement is in line with the general height ceiling set by theme parks, scenic spots, as well as the railway system in the country.

A report by National Health Commission released in June showed that the median height of both 12-year-old Chinese boys and girls have exceeded 1.5 meters.

In 2015, the commission said that Chinese children have grown by eight centimeters over the past four decades, and outgrown the global average standards set by the World Health Organization. The announcement was made after a nationwide survey, according to Xinhua News Agency.

A privately owned business founded in 1989, the Guangzhou-based group runs some of China’s largest and most popular parks with an annual visitorship exceeding tens of millions.

It has yet to respond to the lawsuit filed by the council.

This is not the first time that theme parks in China have been sued for the “height” bracket.

Last year a judge at Guangdong High People’s Court brought Shanghai Disney Resort to court for charging his ten-year-old kid full price for entry, as the kid is taller than the standards.

Shanghai Disney Resort is the only one of the six outlets of the global entertainment giant that offers preferential tickets to children based on heights.

But the company argued in the trial that “its tickets are priced based on the positioning in the market, which doesn’t violate any laws or regulations”.

Peng Peng, vice-chairman of the experts committee of the Guangdong-based South Non-governmental Think-tank, however, provided a counterargument to the debate.

“China’s law on the protection of minors defines them by age, instead of height. Only those who have reached 18 years are regarded as adults,” said Peng.

“It is more reasonable and fair that discounted entrance ticket to the minors is determined by their ages. And it is also easier to distinguish the minors when they show their identity cards,” he said.

He added that even though it’s a common practice for business operators to use height as standards, the bar has been outdated with the increased physical conditions of the nation’s young people.

Tong Lihua, director of a juvenile law research center in Beijing, said that relevant departments should work together to set national standards via legislation to provide discounts to the minors by age.

“The discount tickets for the minors involve the interest of the business providers. Therefore, national standards should be introduced to replace industry, local and company standards,” said Tong.