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Vietnam’s Tan Hiep Phat hit by fresh fly-in-bottle dispute

Friday, January 22, 2016, 19:05 GMT+7

Vietnamese beverage maker Tan Hiep Phat Group and its flagship energy drink have grabbed national headlines again as a consumer found an alleged fly inside an unopened bottle of Number 1.

On December 31, Tran Van Hung, of the north-central province of Nghe An, bought a Number 1 bottle from a local store and discovered a strange object inside when he was about to open it.

The object looked like a fly, with such body parts as the head, wings and legs, as observed by a Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper correspondent, who brought the story to the media on Thursday.

The energy drink was manufactured on October 9, 2015 and has one-year expiry.

Tan Hiep Phat, headquartered in the southern province of Binh Duong, has commented on the issue, shortly after the case was widely covered by the local press.

The company’s director of public relations, Nguyen Phan Huy Khoi, said it would be impossible for a fly to remain in its full shape after being kept in the bottle for more than three and a half months, from its manufacturing date to the time when it was discovered.

“We do not use any preservatives in our drinks, so it is irrational to say there is an undamaged fly inside,” he said in a media note released Friday.

Khoi said while Tan Hiep Phat has yet to confirm if the bottle was unopened, the company “always feels sorry” when a defective product is sold to consumers.

“We express our sincere apologies to consumers,” he said.

According to the media note, on December 13, Hoang Ngoc Hieu, sales manager in charge of the central region for Tan Hiep Phat, went to meet Hung after receiving his complaint.

Hieu wanted to recall the Number 1 bottle in question for investigation, and suggested giving Hung a cardboard box of the energy drink, worth VND250,000 (US$12), plus an ice tank and a crash helmet.

But Hung rejected both the request and offer.

Instead, Hung insisted that the bottle be sent to the local consumer protection association, according to the minutes of the meeting between the two men.

“I do not want to ask for money from the company,” Hung told Tuoi Tre on Friday.

“I just want to know if they would ever buy back that bottle, which is a defective product.”

Hung added that he only seeks a civil agreement with the company, but Tan Hiep Phat said it does not have any policy to buy back defective products.

“I demand a clear answer from the company regarding that strange object found inside its product,” he said.

In 2014, a man named Vo Van Minh also found a fly inside an unopened Number 1 bottle at his eatery in the southern province of Tien Giang, and decided to use it to ask for VND500 million (US$23,300) from Tan Hiep Phat.

The drink maker agreed to pay Minh, but at the same time secretly called for police help. Minh was arrested when he was about to receive cash from Tan Hiep Phat, and was condemned to seven years behind bars on December 17, 2015 for “extorting assets” from the beverage maker.

The court ruled that by demanding money from the drink maker, the man had “mentally intimidated the company and caused harm for the entire society.”

After Tan Hiep Phat won the lawsuit, it was immediately hit by strong protests by consumers, who insisted it was unethical for the firm to treat its customer that way.

A huge wave of people have taken to the Internet to urge one another to ‘boycott’ products made by Tan Hiep Phat, leading to the company admitting to suffering whopping damage worth at least VND2 trillion ($89.29 million).

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