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Asustek apologizes for ZenFone pricing dispute

TAIPEI -- Taiwan's Asustek (華碩) Computer Inc. apologized yesterday for pricing its low-cost ZenFone smartphone models higher in Taiwan than in China, which has created negative controversy for the PC vendor over the past week.

“We are truly sorry for the inconvenience we have brought to Taiwanese consumers,” Asustek Chairman Jonney Shih (施崇棠) told a press briefing in Taipei. “We are not doing well in some aspects and we will take the blame with an open mind.”

Asustek CEO Jerry Shen (沈振來) admitted that the firm's decision to upgrade ZenFone models for the China market to better hardware specifications was to take into account the stiff competition from Chinese handset maker Xiaomi Corp.'s new Hongmi Note, a 5.5-inch octa-core smartphone that starts from only 799 Chinese yuan (US$128).

The apology came a week after Asustek announced its ZenFone line in Taiwan on April 8 with a price tag of NT$4,990 (US$166) for a 5-inch model and NT$6,990 for a 6-inch model.

When the ZenFone models were released in China on April 11, however, the Chinese versions were found to be less expensive than the Taiwanese versions by as much as NT$500, drawing criticism from Taiwanese customers who had pre-ordered or purchased the phones earlier.

Asustek Chief Financial Officer David Chang announced Thursday that the company will cut prices and upgrade hardware specifications for the ZenFone models for the Taiwan market, bringing them in line with the Chinese versions.

Taiwanese customers who are dissatisfied with the compensation offer can refund their orders, Chang said, adding that about 20 percent of the 80,000 pre-ordered ZenFone models have been refunded so far.

Asustek forecast April 8 that it would sell 5 million smartphones of the ZenFone series worldwide by the end of 2014 to give its revenue a year-on-year boost. The company sold 1.5 million smartphones last year, including the PadFone and Fonepad models.

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Asustek Computer Inc. Chairman Jonney Shih (施崇棠), right, bows to apologize for the ZenFone pricing controversy, yesterday. The apology came a week after Asustek announced its ZenFone line in Taiwan with a price tag of NT$4,990 for the 5-inch model and NT$6,990 for the 6-inch model, while the same models were released in China at lower prices.(CNA)

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