Authorities in Taiwan have warned claw machine operators of the prospect of big fines after vendors were found hawking medical products in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
According to local news website Liberty Times, at least 40 claw machines have been caught selling surgical marks and hand sanitisers in the city of Taipei.
City councillor Chen I-chun had complained to the Taipei City Office of Commerce, saying that she suspects a number of claw machine vendors are violating fair trade laws, by hawking the products at inflated rates via the machines, despite strict orders being issued on the pricing of products such as masks, last week.
She also told the paper that she suspects these vendors are also hoarding them, while they are increasingly in short supply.
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The Taipei City Office of Commerce has responded by telling Taiwan News that it will step up police and Department of Health patrols in the vicinity of claw machines and that people can call a hotline to report machines selling medical products as prizes.
Taipei’s Department of Health director, Chen Yi-ting, says that products placed in machines with a medical equipment licence number are in violation of the Pharmaceutical Affairs Act.
She said that operators could face fines of up to two million New Taiwanese dollars. (£50,622; $66,000).
There are currently ten confirmed cases in Taiwan of the novel coronavirus, which was first identified in China in late December.
Claw machine addiction
Taiwan has a unique claw machine craze, and there has been a rapid expansion of the machines on the island over the last few years with players attempting to win prizes from the ubiquitous soft toys to electrical goods.
Gambling is illegal in Taiwan, but claw machines are permitted, and have seen rapidly surged in popularity on the island. Taiwan News says that claw machines are “the biggest revenue source of the amusement tax”.
There are now more than 10,000 claw arcades, and Tainan municipal psychiatrist Chang Chun-hung warns that their proliferation, upbeat music and gaudy prizes are stimulating impulsive behaviours and could trigger psychiatric problems.
Their boom has even been noted in government circles, with officials debating calls for the central bank to mint more 10 New Taiwan Dollar coins, specifically for the machines.
Reporting by Kerry Allen
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