Report: Asus gets customer thrown in jail after she threatens to tell press about its dismal tech support

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Asus and a customer are locked in a legal battle in China, according to reports, after it had her imprisoned for ten months when she threatened to tell the press about its use of substandard engineering samples to repair broken gear.

Huang Jin, accused by Asus of extortion but released due to insufficient evidence, is now launching a legal counter-attack, suing it for defamation, giving false reports to police, and for selling defective gear in the first place. She’s also after the state for compensation for jailing her at the computer company’s request.

Here’s Danwei, translating a story from the Beijing Times:

Huang’s ordeal with ASUS started when she was still a university student on February 9, 2006. She bought a V6800V model ASUS laptop from a Beijing retailer. Her computer had many problems including frequent blue screen freeze-ups.

Despite Huang sending back the computer several times for repairs by the ASUS, some of the problems remained. The last time ASUS repaired Zhou’s computer, they replaced the CPU, but the new CPU overheated. Examination showed that the new CPU was an Intel “engineering sample” of a kind not permitted to be sold in the market.

Huang and her lawyer, Zhou Chengyu, demanded that ASUS to pay a compensation of five million US dollars, threatening to break the news to the media and take ASUS to court.

Asus, according to the report, then contacted authorities and got her thrown in the clink.

Huang has a website up to gather support for her case against Asus, but it’s in Chinese. Here’s a barely-readable machtrans.

ASUS charges customer with extortion, customer countersues [Danwei] Thanks, Chris!

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18 Responses to Report: Asus gets customer thrown in jail after she threatens to tell press about its dismal tech support

  1. Harrkev says:

    Agreed. Both parties are clearly acting like jerks. However, I can understand a person acting like a complete asshat (it takes all kinds). But I would expect cooler heads to prevail at a big company like Asus.

    All companies ship defective products every now and then. However, it is how you handle it after that makes a difference, and it appears that Asus dropped the ball in this case. That doesn’t excuse the customer for being a royal PITA, though.

  2. Mac says:

    “I have some embarrassing information about you. I will release it to the press unless you pay me some money”.

    In what world is that *NOT* blackmail !?

  3. Anonymous says:

    I have suffered through the ASUS customer support hell of death more than once, and cannot blame this woman one bit.

    The definition of “blackmail” has to have an illegal aspect to it. If ASUS were refusing to repair or honor a warranty and she threatened to expose them to the press unless they did as contracted, then that is NOT blackmail. It’s no different than telling a thief you will call the police on them if they steal from you.

    On the other hand, if she merely did this threat without basis, just to get something free, then that would be blackmail.

    No, I’m afraid that with my experience with ASUS, I’d say she got bent over by ASUS without the decency of a reach-around and just wanted some justice.

    This is my OPINION.

  4. Authentic Joe says:

    So, a woman, frustrated with appalling level of Asus customer service told them to fix the problem or she goes and tells anyone. What would you do if you were Asus in a country called People’s Republic of China? Of course you use your connections and simply get this woman jailed for 10 months, this is obviously easier and cheaper than trying to fix your customer service or, God forbid, your inferior products…

    SARCASM OFF.

    Not going to buy anything made by Asus no matter how shiny and will tell my friends not to.

  5. semiotix says:

    Um… yeah. Can anyone say how this isn’t extortion? Or, rather, blackmail, which I guess is a subset of extortion where the threatened act is legal in and of itself.

    I don’t know how the Chinese legal system works on this point, but I was under the impression that if I threatened to expose the LensCrafters down the street for their shoddy hinge-work unless they paid me off, I’d be liable for arrest for blackmail, too.

    Am I wrong about this? If I am, and there are any lawyers out there who want to get me started on a profitable career shaking down merchants, please let me know!

  6. PlushieSchwartz says:

    Boycott!

  7. AirPillo says:

    “Blackmail” is not illegal. “Blackmail” is not extortion.

    Extortion is threatening to damage a person’s health, property, or other wellbeing, in a way which would violate the law, unless a sum of money or other compensation is given. Extortion would be telling Asus that she would tell the press a LIE unless they paid her off. Threatening to share the truth is still blackmail, but is not illegal. This is, at least, true in many other nations in the world. I’m unsure of the specifics of the law in China, but I’d imagine similar framework is in effect here.

    To understand the distinction:
    If someone beats the tar out of me and I tell them to pay me or I’ll expose the facts to the media, I am not committing a crime. If I tell someone to pay me, or I’ll beat the tar out of them, that is a crime. This woman was victimized by a questionably legal, and definitely unethical decision by employees of Asus. She was well within her rights to seek a settlement, however outrageous the sum was, for her troubles.

  8. Hugh says:

    Another term for what the above commenters are calling “extortion” is “coming to a settlement”.

    C’mon, you guys can’t be serious. You think it’s normative and understandable that a women spent 10 months in a prison because she asked for (a ridiculous) $5M or else she would go to the media? She asked for it, she didn’t steal it. Nor did she threaten anyone with anything illegal or otherwise unreasonable. She just said she was going to talk to the media or go to court.

    “…I would expect cooler heads to prevail…”

    I would revise that to “I would expect less morally repugnant heads to prevail”, and without regard to the size or identity of the company.

  9. OM says:

    …It’s the old corporate mantra: If you can’t beat’em, sue’em!.

  10. Anonymous says:

    What’s the role of the Chinese government in all of this?

    Jonney Shih called Hu and said: “Hu my boy, could you do me a favor? Got this chick here ‘causing trouble. Mind throwing her in the brig for me? I’ll fling a laptop your way if you do. Whadoya say?”

    How do you get thrown in jail for something like that???

  11. guy_jin says:

    :o

    I’m kind of ashamed to own an Eee now.

  12. kfw says:

    Although if they really did say “pay up or we’ll go to the press” it starts to sound like extortion, especially if they asked for 5 million for a broken laptop.
    /K

  13. rick386 says:

    She has great grounds for a lawsuit now, but the 1st suit sounds a bit like extortion. ‘Pay me 5 million or I’ll leak to the press that you suck.’ I can almost see why a totalitarian govt. would side with a major company in jailing her. Not saying it’s right, but it’s understandable. Now that it’s out, and not being the victim, it’s almost funny.

  14. dculberson says:

    Yeah, it’s a pretty messy situation all around… I wouldn’t stand up for either party unless they paid me some of that 5mm.

  15. Anonymous says:

    well, jail is good , its like an avacation, you have loads time you do nothing just sleeping and having fun all days.

  16. Tubman says:

    @#9, Airpillo: Blackmail is illegal in many jurisdictions, as is the case in the UK. It can also be illegal in the US: There was a famous case about 10 years ago involving a woman who claimed to be the illegitimate daughter of Bill Cosby and sought several million $ from him to keep it quiet. IIRC, she was convicted for breaking a law against interstate communications which threaten to damage someone’s reputation with the intent of extorting money, and the veracity (or otherwise) of her claim had no bearing on the case.

  17. AirPillo says:

    I stand corrected, then o.o

    I would imagine that what this woman did was not illegal, though. This is especially likely since it sounds like her requests were made by proxy of a lawyer, seeking a “settlement”

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