Fines doled out after campsites fail inspections

By Stephanie Chao, The China Post

All 15 campsites that underwent recent government review failed the inspections, according to a report released by the Executive Yuan Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) on Monday. Camping has become a popular recreational activity in recent years, yet the DCP’s first report on their inspections shows that many camping businesses have yet to upgrade their facilities, department representatives said. The DCP reviewed five factors in the report — precautionary safety measures, facility safety management, liability insurance preparations, legal contract guidelines and location safety. The report determined that four out of the 15 privately-owned campsites were located in dangerous areas, such as on mountainous slopes and in landslide-prone zones. Pingtung County’s Liang Shan Campsite (涼山露營區) was penalized with a NT$60,000 fine for illegally developing on a slope. Local government agencies are still investigating Pingtung County’s Inda Farm (穎達生態休閒農場) for violating land usage regulations by deviating from the development plan that they submitted to local authorities. By law, the business could face up to NT$300,000 in penalties. Two other campsites in Hsinchu — Tien Chung Recreational Campsite (田中休閒露營區) and Sakura Valley Campsite (櫻花谷露營區) — were determined to be located on mountainous slopes and in areas prone to landslides. Yet DCP representatives have said there are no existing laws to regulate or penalize the businesses.

Inda Farm and Sakura Valley Campsite were also found to have failed in four other categories. Sakura Valley Campsite management stated that they had already improved upon the items listed by government agencies. Senior consumer ombudsman Wang Te-ming said another portion of the report revealed that 13 out of 15 campsites did not provide adequate emergency kits and equipment — such as insufficient fire extinguishers or those that had expired or were difficult to locate.

Consumer rights could be difficult to protect for campers at two sites in Miaoli (青山好水露營區, 知泉度假營地), Yilan’s Meihua Lake Leisure Farm (梅花湖休閒農場), Inda Farm and New Taipei Sanxia District’s Queen Town campsite, as these places do not provide legal contracts, Wang said. Due to incomplete contract guidelines, campers may find themselves in consumer disputes over refunds and deposit payments, Wang said, citing both as common cases brought to the DCP for review. He warned campers to take note of facility safety measures, location and whether management provided sufficient liability insurance packages to comply with local regulations and whether the campsites provide clear, complete contracts that follow government guidelines.