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Duty-free company at London airport aplogizes after being accused of discrimination

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A duty-free company that runs its business at London Heathrow Airport apologized on Monday after Chinese customers accused it of alleged discrimination over its VIP voucher policy.

"As a global company we are committed to treating all our customers with respect and in a consistent and fair way," the company, the World Duty Free Group, said in a statement. "We would like to offer our sincere apologies to our customers who were in any way made to feel this was not the case."

"Once again, we would like to take this opportunity to apologize profoundly to all our valued customers," it said.

Chinese social media users alleged Chinese customers had to spend more than 1,000 pounds (1,383 US dollars) to qualify for a discount voucher at World Duty Free. The Chinese social media users claimed customers from other countries needed just 79 pounds to receive the 20-percent discount voucher.

The latest statement is the second of the company's apology to customers since the outbreak of the discrimination row over the past days.

However, there is a difference in contents of English and Chinese versions of the statement, which was issued on Monday night on Facebook.

The English text did not mention Chinese customers explicitly, just simply talked about customers or "all our valued customers", while the Chinese version, immediately following the English one, did mention "the Chinese public".

The company did not respond to requests for an explanation of whether it did indeed discriminate against Chinese travelers.

The statement came amid pressures from Chinese people who aired their outrage in social media.

The first statement, issued on Monday on Twitter, did apologize, but failed to give a full explanation.

The claim that Chinese travelers were being discriminated against went viral with people posting to complain about mistreatment.

"The VIP program is designed to reward customers -- on top of our normal promotions -- at certain points of the year by offering an attractive incentive on a second purchase," said the latest statement from the company, which is headquartered in Bern, Switzerland.

"After close self-examination and having made further investigations, we have taken urgent steps to correct the implementation of this promotion going forward," the statement added.

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