China proposes 7-day refund for online shoppers

Draft amendment in consumer rights law--the first in 20 years--will give Chinese e-shoppers the right to return goods within seven days, as the country's top legislature argues online consumers cannot verify authenticity of product.

China's top legislature says online shoppers should be granted a seven-day period to ask for refund on goods purchased.

A draft amendment presented to China's legislature on Tuesday proposed online shoppers should be granted a seven-day period within which they would able to get a refund on goods purchased. 

The proposed draft, which comes 20 years after the enactment of the country's consumer rights law, aims to grant e-shoppers the right to choose and to unilaterally terminate contracts, China Daily reported on Wednesday.

This is the first time the Commission for Legislative Affairs of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, which is the country's top legislature, is considering amending the consumer rights law to protect the interests of online shoppers.

China's e-commerce market  has seen tremendous growth in recent years, with online shopping targeted to hit 18 trillion yuan (US$2.86 trillion) by 2015. According to a report, the Chinese online retail market reached 1.3 trillion yuan (US$209 billion) last year. 

While briefing national lawmakers during a legislative session, Li Shishi, director of the legislature, said the proposed amendment would apply to not only Internet shopping but also TV and telephone-based sales as these were surging in the country.

Li explained online shopping differed from traditional shopping as online shoppers cannot check the goods' authenticity and are susceptible to deceptive advertising , because they purchase the goods only through pictures and text descriptions.

She added that China's consumer rights law, which was enacted in 1993, currently does not have stipulations on the protection of online consumer rights.

"Consumption patterns, structure, and concepts in China have undergone great changes over the past two decades," Li noted. As such, the proposed amendment aims to adapt the law to today's consumers, stressing the rights of consumers to get accurate information, she explained, adding that sellers should provide authentic information about their products or services.

"Online shoppers will be able to ask for compensation from the e-trade platforms where the transactions took place, even if the seller has stopped using the platform," the draft law stated, adding that the e-commerce platform can then claim compensation from the seller after paying the compensation to e-shoppers.

However, Liu Junhai, deputy director of the China Consumers' Association, said the draft amendment would not protect consumers who purchase products in a consumer-to-consumer (C2C) Web site instead of a business-to-consumer site (B2C).

Chinese authorities currently do not require C2C traders to register with local business administration authorities and,  hence, do not tax these traders  even though some of these businesses have expanded to a considerable level. The loophole should be addressed, Liu said, as almost 70 percent of online sales are conducted between consumers and C2C dealers.